WHAT WAS FOUND IN RODNEY'S ROOM.
"There is a boy who stands between me and promotion," continued Jasper, speaking in a low tone.
"The boy you mentioned the other day?"
"Yes, Rodney Ropes. Mr. Goodnow got him from I don't know where, and has taken a ridiculous fancy to him. He has been put over my head and his pay raised, though I have been in the store longer than he. My idea is to connect him with the thefts and get him discharged."
"Do you mean that we are to make him a confederate?"
"No," answered Jasper impatiently. "He would be just the fellow to peach and get us all into trouble."
"Then what do you mean?"
"To direct suspicion towards him. We won't do it immediately, but within a week or two. It would do me good to have him turned out of the store."
Jasper proceeded to explain his idea more fully, and his companion pronounced it very clever.
Meanwhile Rodney, not suspecting the conspiracy to deprive him of his place and his good name, worked zealously, encouraged by his promotion, and resolved to make a place for himself which should insure him a permanent connection with the firm.
Ten days passed, and Mr. Redwood again received a summons from the office.
Entering, he found Mr. Goodnow with a letter in his hand.
"Well, Mr. Redwood," he began, "have you got any clew to the party who has stolen our goods?"
"Has any thing been taken since I spoke with you on the subject?"
"Not that I am aware of."
"Has any one of the clerks attracted your attention by suspicious conduct?"
"No, sir," answered Redwood, puzzled.
"Humph! Cast your eye over this letter."
James Redwood took the letter, which was written in a fine hand, and read as follow:
DEAR SIR,—I don't know whether you are aware that articles have been taken from your stock, say, ladies' cloaks and silk dress patterns, and disposed of outside. I will not tell you how it has come to my knowledge, for I do not want to get any one's ill will, but I will say, to begin with, that they were taken by one of your employees, and the one, perhaps, that you would least suspect, for I am told that he is a favorite of yours. I may as well say that it is Rodney Ropes. I live near him, and last evening I saw him carry a bundle to his room when he went back from the store. I think if you would send round today when he is out, you would find in his room one or more of the stolen articles. I don't want to get him into trouble, but I don't like to see you robbed, and so I tell you what I know. A FRIEND.
Mr. Redwood read this letter attentively, arching his brows, perhaps to indicate his surprise. Then he read it again carefully.
"What do you think of it?" asked the merchant.
"I don't know," answered Redwood slowly.
"Have you ever seen anything suspicious in the conduct of young Ropes?"
"I can't say I have. On the contrary, he seems to be a very diligent and industrious clerk."
"But about his honesty."
"I fancied him the soul of honesty."
"So did I, but of course we are liable to be deceived. It wouldn't be the first case where seeming honesty has been a cover for flagrant dishonesty."
"What do you wish me to do, Mr. Goodnow? Shall I send Ropes down to you?"
"No; it would only give him a chance, if guilty, to cover up his dishonesty."
"I am ready to follow your instructions."
"Do you know where he lodges?"
"Then I will ask you to go around there, and by some means gain admission to his room. If he has any of our goods secreted take possession of them and report to me."
"Very well, sir." Half an hour later Mrs. McCarty, Rodney's landlady, in response to a ring admitted Mr. James Redwood.
"Does a young man named Ropes lodge here?" he asked.
"I come from the house where he is employed. He has inadvertently left in his room a parcel belonging to us, and I should be glad if you would allow me to go up to his room and take it."
"You see, sir," said Mrs. McCarty in a tone of hesitation, "while you look like a perfect gentleman, I don't know you, and I am not sure whether, in justice to Mr. Ropes, I ought to admit you to his room."
"You are quite right my good lady; I am sure. It is just what I should wish my own landlady to do. I will therefore ask you to go up to the room with me to see that all is right."
"That seems all right, sir. In that case I don't object. Follow me, if you please."
As they entered Rodney's room Mr. Redwood looked about him inquisitively. One article at once fixed his attention. It was a parcel wrapped in brown paper lying on the bed.
"This is the parcel, I think," he said. "If you will allow me I will open it, to make sure."
Mrs. McCarty looked undecided, but as she said nothing in opposition Mr. Redwood unfastened the strings and unrolled the bundle. His eyes lighted up with satisfaction as he disclosed the contents—a lady's cloak.
Mrs. McCarty looked surprised.
"Why, it's a lady's cloak," she said, "and a very handsome one. What would Mr. Ropes want of such a thing as that?"
"Perhaps he intended to make you a present of it."
"No, he can't afford to make such present."
"The explanation is simple. It belongs to the store. Perhaps Mr. Ropes left it here inadvertently."
"But he hasn't been here since morning."
"He has a pass key to the front door?"
"Then he may have been here. Would you object to my taking it?"
"Yes, sir, you see I don't know you."
"Your objection is a proper one. Then I will trouble you to take a look at the cloak, so that you would know it again."
"Certainly, sir. I shall remember it!"
"That is all, Mrs. ——?"
"Mrs. McCarty, I won't take up any more of your time," and Mr. Redwood started to go down stairs.
"Who shall I tell Mr. Ropes called to see him."
"You needn't say. I will mention the matter to him myself. I am employed in the same store."
"All right sir. Where is the store? I never thought to ask Mr. Ropes."
"Reade Street, near Broadway. You know where Reade Street is?"
"Yes, sir. My husband used to work in Chambers Street. That is the first street south."
"Precisely. Well, I can't stay longer, so I will leave, apologizing for having taken up so much of your time."
"Oh, it's of no consequence, sir."
"He is a perfect gentleman," she said to herself, as Mr. Redwood closed the front door, and went out on the street. "I wonder whether he's a widower."
Being a widow this was quite a natural thought for Mrs. McCarty to indulge in, particularly as Mr. Redwood looked to be a substantial man with a snug income.
Mr. Redwood went back to the store, and went at once to the office.
"Well, Redwood," said Mr. Goodnow, "did you learn anything?"
"I went to the lodging of young Ropes, and was admitted to his room."
"And there, wrapped in a brown paper, I found one of our missing cloaks lying on his bed."
"Is it possible?"
"I am afraid he is not what we supposed him to be, Mr. Goodnow."
"It looks like it. I am surprised and sorry. Do you think he took the other articles that are missing?"
"Of course I can't say, sir, but it is fair to presume that he did."
"I am exceedingly sorry. I don't mind saying, Redwood, that I took an especial interest in that boy. I have already told you the circumstances of my meeting him, and the fancy taken to him by my friend Mulgrave."
"Yes, sir, I have heard you say that."
"I don't think I am easily taken in, and that boy impressed me as thoroughly honest. But of course I don't pretend to be infallible and it appears that I have been mistaken in him."
The merchant looked troubled, for he had come to feel a sincere regard for Rodney. He confessed to himself that he would rather have found any of the other clerks dishonest.
"You may send Ropes to me," he said, "Mr. Redwood, and you will please come with him. We will investigate this matter at once."
"Very well, sir."
CHARGED WITH THEFT.
Rodney entered Mr. Goodnow's office without a suspicion of the serious accusation which had been made against him. The first hint that there was anything wrong came to him when he saw the stern look in the merchants eyes.
"Perhaps," said Mr. Goodnow, as he leaned back in his chair and fixed his gaze on the young clerk, "you may have an idea why I have sent for you."
"No, sir," answered Rodney, looking puzzled.
"You can't think of any reason I may have for wishing to see you?"
"No, sir," and Rodney returned Mr. Goodnow's gaze with honest unfaltering eyes.
"Possibly you are not aware that within a few weeks some articles have been missed from our stock."
"I have not heard of it. What kind of articles?"
"The boy is more artful than I thought!" soliloquized the merchant.
"All the articles missed," he proceeded, "have been from the room in charge of Mr. Redwood, the room in which you, among others, are employed."
Something in Mr. Goodnow's tone gave Rodney the hint of the truth. If he had been guilty he would have flushed and showed signs of confusion. As it was, he only wished to learn the truth and he in turn became the questioner.
"Is it supposed," he asked, "that any one in your employ is responsible for these thefts?"
"Is any one in particular suspected?"
"Will you tell me who, that is if you think I ought to know?"
"Certainly you ought to know, for it is you who are suspected."
Then Rodney became indignant.
"I can only deny the charge in the most emphatic terms," he said. "If any one has brought such a charge against me, it is a lie."
"You can say that to Mr. Redwood, for it is he who accuses you."
"What does this mean, Mr. Redwood?" demanded Rodney quickly. "What have you seen in me that leads you to accuse me of theft."
"To tell the truth, Ropes, you are about the last clerk in my room whom I would have suspected. But early this morning this letter was received," and he placed in Rodney's hands the letter given in a preceding chapter.
Rodney read it through and handed it back scornfully.
"I should like to see the person who wrote this letter," he said. "It is a base lie from beginning to end."
"I thought it might be when Mr. Goodnow showed it to me," said Redwood in an even tone, "but Mr. Goodnow and I agreed that it would be well to investigate. Therefore I went to your room."
"Then it is all right, for I am sure you found nothing."
"On the contrary, Ropes, I found that the statement made in the letter was true. On your bed was a bundle containing one of the cloaks taken from our stock."
Rodney's face was the picture of amazement.
"Is this true?" he said.
"It certainly is. I hope you don't doubt my word."
"Did you bring it back with you?"
"No; your worthy landlady was not quite sure whether I was what I represented, and I left the parcel there. However I opened it in her presence so that she can testify what I found."
"This is very strange," said Rodney, looking at his accuser with puzzled eyes. "I know nothing whatever of the cloak and can't imagine how it got into my room."
"Perhaps it walked there," said Mr. Goodnow satirically.
Rodney colored, for he understood that his employer did not believe him.
"May I go to my room," he asked, "and bring back the bundle with me?"
Observing that Mr. Goodnow hesitated he added, "You can send Some one with me to see that I don't spirit away the parcel, and come back with it."
"On these conditions you may go. Redwood, send some one with Ropes."
Rodney followed the chief of his department back to the cloak room, and the latter, after a moments thought, summoned Jasper.
"Jasper," he said, "Ropes is going to his room to get a parcel which belongs to the store. You may go with him."
There was a flash of satisfaction in Jasper's eyes as he answered with seeming indifference, "All right! I will go. I shall be glad to have a walk."
As the two boys passed out of the store, Jasper asked, "What does it mean, Ropes?"
"I don't know myself. I only know that there is said to be a parcel containing a cloak in my room. This cloak came from the store, and I am suspected of having stolen it."
"Whew! that's a serious matter. Of course it is all a mistake?"
"Yes, it is all a mistake."
"But how could it get to your room unless you carried it there?"
Rodney gave Jasper a sharp look.
"Some one must have taken it there," he said.
"How on earth did Uncle James find out?"
"An anonymous letter was sent to Mr. Goodnow charging me with theft. Did you hear that articles have been missed for some time from the stock?"
"Never heard a word of it," said Jasper with ready falsehood.
"It seems the articles are missing from our room, and some one in the room is suspected of being the thief."
"Good gracious! I hope no one will suspect me," said Jasper in pretended alarm.
"It seems I am suspected. I hope no other innocent person will have a like misfortune."
Presently they reached Rodney's lodgings. Mrs. McCarty was coming up the basement stairs as they entered.
"La, Mr. Ropes!" she said, "what brings you here in the middle of the day?"
"I hear there is a parcel in my room."
"Yes; it contains such a lovely cloak. The gentleman from your store who called a little while ago thought you might have meant it as a present for me."
"I am afraid it will be some time before I can afford to make such present. Do you know if any one called and left the cloak here?"
"No; I didn't let in no one at the door."
"Was the parcel there when you made the bed?"
"Well, no, it wasn't. That is curious."
"It shows that the parcel has been left here since. Now I certainly couldn't have left it, for I have been at work all the morning. Come up stairs, Jasper."
The two boys went up the stairs, and, entering Rodney's room, found the parcel, still on the bed.
Rodney opened it and identified the cloak as exactly like those which they carried in stock.
He examined the paper in which it was inclosed, but it seemed to differ from the wrapping paper used at the store. He called Jasper's attention to this.
"I have nothing to say," remarked Jasper, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't understand the matter at all. I suppose you are expected to carry the cloak back to the store."
"Yes, that is the only thing to do."
"I say, Ropes, it looks pretty bad for you."
Jasper said this, but Rodney observed that his words were not accompanied by any expressions of sympathy, or any words that indicated his disbelief of Rodney's guilt.
"Do you think I took this cloak from the store?" he demanded, facing round upon Jasper.
"Really, I don't know. It looks bad, finding it in your room."
"I needn't ask any further. I can see what you think."
"You wouldn't have me tell a lie, would you, Ropes? Of course such things have been done before, and your salary is small."
"You insult me by your words," said Rodney, flaming up.
"Then I had better not speak, but you asked me, you know."
"Yes, I did. Things may look against me, but I am absolutely innocent."
"If you can make Mr. Goodnow think so," said Jasper with provoking coolness, "it will be all right. Perhaps he will forgive you."
"I don't want his forgiveness. I want him to think me honest."
"Well, I hope you are, I am sure, but it won't do any good our discussing it, and it doesn't make any difference what I think any way."
By this time they had reached the store.
RODNEY IS DISCHARGED.
Rodney reported his return to Mr. Redwood, and in his company went down stairs to the office, with the package under his arm.
"Well?" said Mr. Goodnow inquiringly.
"This is the package, sir."
"And it was found in your room?"
"Yes, sir, I found it on my bed."
"Can't you account for it being there?" asked the merchant searchingly.
"You must admit that its presence in your room looks bad for you."
"I admit it sir; but I had nothing to do with it being there."
"Have you any theory to account for it?"
"Only this, that some one must have carried it to my room and placed it where it was found."
"Did you question your landlady as to whether she had admitted any one during the morning?"
"Yes, sir. She had not."
"This is very unfavorable to you."
"In what way, sir?"
"It makes it probable that you carried in the parcel yourself."
"That I deny," said Rodney boldly.
"I expected you to deny it," said the merchant coldly. "If this cloak were the only one that had been taken I would drop the matter. But this is by no means the case. Mr. Redwood, can you give any idea of the extent to which we have been robbed?"
"So far as I can estimate we have lost a dozen cloaks and about half a dozen dress patterns."
"This is a serious loss, Ropes," said Mr. Goodnow. "I should think it would foot up several hundred dollars. If you can throw any light upon the thefts, or give me information by which I can get back the goods even at considerable expense, I will be as considerate with you as I can."
"Mr. Goodnow," returned Rodney hotly, "I know no more about the matter than you do. I hope you will investigate, and if you can prove that I took any of the missing articles I want no consideration. I shall expect you to have me arrested, and, if convicted, punished."
"These are brave words, Ropes," said Mr. Goodnow coldly, "but they are only words. The parcel found in your room affords strong ground for suspicion that you are responsible for at least a part of the thefts. Under the circumstances there is only one thing for me to do, and that is to discharge you."
"Very well, sir."
"You may go to the cashier and he will pay you to the end of the week, but your connection with the store will end at once."
"I don't care to be paid to the end of the week, sir. If you will give me an order for payment up to tonight, that will be sufficient."
"It shall be as you say."
Mr. Goodnow wrote a few words on a slip of paper and handed it to Rodney.
"I will leave my address, sir, and if I change it I will notify you. If you should hear anything as to the real robber I will ask you as a favor to communicate with me."
"Mr. Redwood, you have heard the request of Ropes, I will look to you to comply with it."
"Very well, sir."
The merchant turned back to his letters, and Rodney left the office, with what feelings of sorrow and humiliation may be imagined.
"I am sorry for this occurrence, Ropes," said Mr. Redwood, with a touch of sympathy in his voice.
"Do you believe me guilty, Mr. Redwood?"
"I cannot do otherwise. I hope you are innocent, and, if so, that the really guilty party will be discovered sooner or later."
"Thank you, sir."
When they entered the room in which Rodney had been employed Jasper came up, his face alive with curiosity.
"Well," he said, "how did you come out?"
"I am discharged," said Rodney bitterly.
"Well, you couldn't complain of that. Things looked pretty dark for you."
"If I had committed the theft, I would not complain. Indeed, I would submit to punishment without a murmur. But it is hard to suffer while innocent."
"Uncle James," said Jasper, "if Ropes is going will you ask Mr. Goodnow to put me in his place?"
Even Mr. Redwood was disgusted by this untimely request.
"It would be more becoming," he said sharply, "if you would wait till Ropes was fairly out of the store before applying for his position."
"I want to be in time. I don't want any one to get ahead of me."
James Redwood did not deign a reply.
"I am sorry you leave us under such circumstances, Ropes," he said. "The time may come when you will be able to establish your innocence, and in that case Mr. Goodnow will probably take you back again."
Rodney did not answer, but with his order went to the cashier's desk and received the four dollars due him. Then, with a heavy heart, he left the store where it had been such a satisfaction to him to work.
On Broadway he met his room mate, Mike Flynn, in the uniform of a telegraph boy.
"Where are you goin', Rodney?" asked Mike. "You ain't let off so early, are you?"
"I am let off for good and all, Mike."
"I am discharged."
"What for?" asked Mike in amazement.
"I will tell you when you get home tonight."
Rodney went back to his room, and lay down sad and despondent. Some hours later Mike came in, and was told the story. The warm hearted telegraph boy was very angry.
"That boss of yours must be a stupid donkey," he said.
"I don't know. The parcel was found in my room."
"Anybody'd know to look at you that you wouldn't steal."
"Some thieves look very innocent. The only way to clear me is to find out who left the bundle at the house."
"Doesn't Mrs. McCarty know anything about it?"
"No; I asked her."
"Some one might have got into the house without her knowing anything about it. The lock is a very common one. There are plenty of keys that will open it."
"If we could find some one that saw a person with a bundle go up the steps, that would give us a clew."
"That's so. We'll ask."
But for several days no one could be found who had seen any such person.
Meanwhile Rodney was at a loss what to do. He was cut off from applying for another place, for no one would engage him if he were refused a recommendation from his late employer. Yet he must obtain some employment for he could not live on nothing.
"Do you think, Mike," he asked doubtfully, "that I could make anything selling papers?"
"Such business isn't for you," answered the telegraph boy.
"But it is one of the few things open to me. I can become a newsboy without recommendations. Even your business would be closed to me if it were known that I was suspected of theft."
"Thats so," said Mike, scratching his head in perplexity.
"Then would you recommend my becoming a newsboy?"
"I don't know. You couldn't make more'n fifty or sixty cent a day."
"That will be better than nothing."
"And I can pay the rent, or most of it, as I'll be doin' better than you."
"We will wait and see how much I make."
So Rodney swallowed his pride, and procuring a supply of afternoon papers set about selling them. He knew that it was an honest business, and there was no disgrace in following it.
But one day he was subjected to keen mortification. Jasper Redwood and a friend—it was Philip Carton, his confederate—were walking along Broadway, and their glances fell on Rodney.
"I say, Jasper," said the elder of the two, "isn't that the boy who was in the same store with you?"
Jasper looked, and his eyes lighted up with malicious satisfaction.
"Oho!" he said. "Well, this is rich!"
"Give me a paper, boy," he said, pretending not to recognize Rodney at first. "Why, it's Ropes."
"Yes," answered Rodney, his cheek flushing. "You see what I am reduced to. What paper will you buy?"
"The Mail and Express."
"Here it is."
"Can't you get another place?" asked Jasper curiously.
"I might if I could get a recommendation, but probably Mr. Goodnow wouldn't give me one."
"No, I guess not."
"So I must take what I can get."
"Do you make much selling papers?"
"You can't make as much as you did in the store?"
"Not much more than half as much."
"Do you live in the same place?"
"Yes, for the present."
"Oh, by the way, Ropes, I've got your old place," said Jasper in exultation.
"I thought you would get it," answered Rodney, not without a pang.
"Come into the store some day, Ropes. It will seem like old times."
"I shall not enter the store till I am able to clear myself of the charge made against me."
"Then probably you will stay away a long time."
"I am afraid so."
"Well, ta, ta! Come along, Philip."
As Rodney followed with his eye the figure of his complacent successor he felt that his fate was indeed a hard one.
A RICH FIND.
As Jasper and his companion moved away, Carton said, "I'm sorry for that poor duffer, Jasper."
"Why should you be sorry?" asked Jasper, frowning.
"Because he has lost a good place and good prospects, and all for no fault of his own."
"You are getting sentimental, Philip," sneered Jasper.
"No, but I am showing a little humanity. He has lost all this through you——"
"Through us, you mean."
"Well, through us. We have made him the scapegoat for our sins."
"Oh well, he is making a living."
"A pretty poor one. I don't think you would like to be reduced to selling papers."
"His case and mine are different."
"I begin to think also that we have made a mistake in getting him discharged so soon."
"We can't take anything more."
"Because there will be no one to lay the blame upon. He is out of the store."
"That is true. I didn't think of that. But I invited him to come around and call. If he should, and something else should be missing it would be laid to him."
"I don't believe he will call. I am terribly hard up, and our source of income has failed us. Haven't you got a dollar or two to spare?"
"No," answered Jasper coldly. "I only get seven dollars a week."
"But you have nearly all that. You only have to hand in two dollars a week to your uncle."
"Look here, Philip Carton, I hope you don't expect to live off me. I have all I can do to take care of myself."
Carton looked at Jasper in anger and mortification.
"I begin to understand how good a friend you are," he said.
"I am not fool enough to pinch myself to keep you," said Jasper bluntly. "You are a man of twenty five and I am only a boy. You ought to be able to take care of yourself."
"Just give me a dollar, or lend it Jasper, and I will risk it at play. I may rise from the table with a hundred. If I do I will pay you handsomely for the loan."
"I couldn't do it, Mr. Carton. I have only two dollars in my pocket, and I have none to spare."
"Humph! what is that?"
Philip Carton's eyes were fixed upon the sidewalk. There was a flimsy piece of paper fluttering about impelled by the wind. He stooped and picked it up.
"It is a five dollar bill," he exclaimed in exultation. "My luck has come back."
Jasper changed his tone at once. Now Philip was the better off of the two.
"That is luck!" he said. "Shall we go into Delmonico's, and have an ice?"
"If it is at your expense, yes."
"That wouldn't be fair. You have more money than I."
"Yes, and I mean to keep it myself. You have set me the example."
"Come, Philip, you are not angry at my refusing you a loan?"
"No; I think you were sensible. I shall follow your example. I will bid you good night. I seem to be in luck, and will try my fortune at the gaming table."
"I will go with you."
"No; I would prefer to go alone."
"That fellow is unreasonable," muttered Jasper, as he strode off, discontented. "Did he expect I would divide my salary with him?"
Philip Carton, after he parted company with Jasper, walked back to where Rodney was still selling papers.
"Give me a paper," he said.
"Which will you have?"
"I am not particular. Give me the first that comes handy. Ah, the Evening Sun will do."
He took the paper and put a quarter into Rodney's hand.
As he was walking away Rodney called out, "Stop, here's your change,"
"Never mind," said Philip with a wave of the hand.
"Thank you," said Rodney gratefully, for twenty five cents was no trifle to him at this time.
"That ought to bring me luck," soliloquized Philip Carton as he walked on. "It isn't often I do a good deed. It was all the money I had besides the five dollar bill, and I am sure the news boy will make better use of it than I would."
"That was the young man that was walking with Jasper," reflected Rodney. "Well, he is certainly a better fellow than he. Thanks to this quarter, I shall have made eighty cents today, and still have half a dozen papers. That is encouraging."
Several days passed that could not be considered lucky. Rodney's average profits were only about fifty cent a day, and that was barely sufficient to buy his meals. It left him nothing to put towards paying room rent.
He began to consider whether he would not be compelled to pawn some article from his wardrobe, for he was well supplied with clothing, when he had a stroke of luck.
On Fifteenth Street, by the side of Tiffany's great jewelry store, he picked up a square box neatly done up in thin paper. Opening it, he was dazzled by the gleam of diamonds.
The contents were a diamond necklace and pin, which, even to Rodney's inexperienced eyes, seemed to be of great value.
"Some one must have dropped them in coming from the jewelry store," he reflected. "Who can it be?"
He had not far to seek. There was a card inside on which was engraved:
MRS. ELIZA HARVEY,
with an address on Fifth Avenue.
Passing through to Fifth Avenue Rodney began to scan the numbers on the nearest houses. He judged that Mrs. Harvey must live considerably farther up the Avenue, in the direction of Central Park.
"I will go there at once," Rodney decided. "No doubt Mrs. Harvey is very much distressed by her loss. I shall carry her good news."
The house he found to be between Fortieth and Fiftieth Street. Ascending the steps he rang the bell. The door was opened by a man servant.
"Does Mrs. Harvey live here?" asked Rodney.
"What do you want with her, young man?" demanded the servant in a tone of importance.
"That I will tell her."
"What's your name?"
"I can give you my name, but she won't recognize it."
"Then you don't know her."
"If it's money you want, she don't give to beggars."
"You are impudent," said Rodney hotly. "If you don't give my message you will get into trouble."
The servant opened his eyes. He seemed somewhat impressed by Rodney's confident tone.
"Mrs. Harvey doesn't live here," he said.
"Is she in the house?"
"Well, yes, she's visiting here."
"Then why do you waste your time?" said Rodney impatiently. He forgot for the time that he was no longer being educated at an expensive boarding school, and spoke in the tone he would have used before his circumstances had changed.
"I'll go and ask if she'll see you," said the flunky unwillingly.
Five minutes later a pleasant looking woman of middle age descended the staircase.
"Are you the boy that wished to see me?" she asked.
"Yes, if you are Mrs. Harvey."
"I am. But come in! Thomas, why didn't you invite this young gentleman into the parlor?"
Thomas opened his eyes wide. So the boy whom he had treated so cavalierly was a young gentleman.
He privately put down Mrs. Harvey in his own mind as eccentric.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he said. "I didn't know as he was parlor company."
"Well, he is," said Mrs. Harvey with a cordial smile that won Rodney's heart.
"Follow me!" said the lady.
Rodney followed her into a handsome apartment and at a signal seated himself on a sofa.
"Now," she said, "I am ready to listen to your message."
"Have you lost anything?" asked Rodney abruptly.
"Oh, have you found it?" exclaimed Mrs. Harvey, clasping her hands.
"That depends on what you have lost," answered Rodney, who felt that it was necessary to be cautious.
"Certainly, you are quite right. I have lost a box containing jewelry bought this morning at Tiffany's."
"What were the articles?"
"A diamond necklace and pin. They are intended as a present for my daughter who is to be married. Tell me quick have you found them?"
"Is this the box?" asked Rodney.
"Oh yes, yes! How delightful to recover it. I thought I should never see it again. Where did you find it?"
"On Fifteenth Street beside Tiffany's store."
"And you brought it directly to me?"
"Have you any idea of the value of the articles?"
"Perhaps they may be worth five hundred dollars."
"They are worth over a thousand. Are you poor?"
"Yes, madam. I am trying to make a living by selling papers, but find it hard work."
"But you don't look like a newsboy."
"Till a short time since I thought myself moderately rich."
"That is strange. Tell me your story."
A SURPRISING TURN OF FORTUNE.
Rodney told his story frankly. Mrs. Harvey was very sympathetic by nature, and she listened with the deepest interest, and latterly with indignation when Rodney spoke of his dismissal from Mr. Goodnow's store.
"You have been treated shamefully," she said warmly.
"I think Mr. Goodnow really believes me guilty," rejoined Rodney.
"A dishonest boy would hardly have returned a valuable box of jewelry."
"Still Mr. Goodnow didn't know that I would do it."
"I see you are disposed to apologize for your late employer."
"I do not forget that he treated me kindly till this last occurrence."
"Your consideration does you credit. So you have really been reduced to earn your living as a newsboy?"
"I must think what I can do for you. I might give you money, but when that was gone you would be no better off."
"I would much rather have help in getting a place."
Mrs. Harvey leaned her head on her hand and looked thoughtful.
"You are right," she said. "Let me think."
Rodney waited, hoping that the lady would be able to think of something to his advantage.
Finally she spoke.
"I think you said you understood Latin and Greek?"
"I have studied both languages and French also. I should have been ready to enter college next summer."
"Then perhaps I shall be able to do something for you. I live in Philadelphia, but I have a brother living in West Fifty Eighth Street. He has one little boy, Arthur, now nine years of age. Arthur is quite precocious, but his health is delicate, and my brother has thought of getting a private instructor for him. Do you like young children?"
"Very much. I always wished that I had a little brother."
"Then I think you would suit my brother better as a tutor for Arthur than a young man. Being a boy yourself, you would be not only tutor but companion."
"I should like such a position very much."
"Then wait here a moment, and I will write you a letter of introduction."
She went up stairs, but soon returned.
She put a small perfumed billet into Rodney's hands. It was directed to John Sargent with an address on West Fifty Eighth Street.
"Call this evening," she said, "about half past seven o'clock. My brother will be through dinner, and will not have gone out at that hour."
"Thank you," said Rodney gratefully.
"Here is another envelope which you can open at your leisure. I cannot part from you without thanking you once more for returning my jewelry."
"You have thanked me in a very practical way, Mrs. Harvey."
"I hope my letter may lead to pleasant results for you. If you ever come to Philadelphia call upon me at No. 1492 Walnut Street."
As Rodney left the house he felt that his ill fortune had turned, and that a new prospect was opened up before him. He stepped into the Windsor Hotel, and opened the envelope last given him. It contained five five dollar bills.
To one of them was pinned a scrap of paper containing these words: "I hope this money will be useful to you. It is less than the reward I should have offered for the recovery of the jewels."
Under the circumstances Rodney felt that he need not scruple to use the money. He knew that he had rendered Mrs. Harvey a great service, and that she could well afford to pay him the sum which the envelopes contained.
He began to be sensible that he was hungry, not having eaten for some time. He went into a restaurant on Sixth Avenue, and ordered a sirloin steak. It was some time since he had indulged in anything beyond a common steak, and he greatly enjoyed the more luxurious meal. He didn't go back to selling papers, for he felt that it would hardly be consistent with the position of a classical teacher—the post for which he was about to apply.
Half past seven found him at the door of Mr. John Sargent. The house was of brown stone, high stoop, and four stories in height. It was such a house as only a rich man could occupy.
He was ushered into the parlor and presently Mr. Sargent came in from the dining room.
"Are you Mr. Ropes?" he asked, looking at Rodney's card.
It is not usual for newsboys to carry cards, but Rodney had some left over from his more prosperous days.
"Yes, sir. I bring you a note of introduction from Mrs. Harvey."
"Ah yes, my sister. Let me see it."
The note was of some length. That is, it covered three pages of note paper. Mr. Sargent read it attentively.
"My sister recommends you as tutor for my little son, Arthur," he said, as he folded up the letter.
"Yes, sir; she suggested that I might perhaps suit you in that capacity."
"She also says that you found and restored to her a valuable box of jewelry which she was careless enough to drop near Tiffany's."
"I have a good deal of confidence in my sister's good judgment. She evidently regards you very favorably."
"I am glad of that sir,"
"Will you tell me something of your qualifications? Arthur is about to commence Latin. He is not old enough for Greek."
"I could teach either, sir."
"And of course you are well up in English branches?"
"I think I am."
"My sister hints that you are poor, and obliged to earn your own living. How, then, have you been able to secure so good an education?"
"I have only been poor for a short time. My father left me fifty thousand dollars, but it was lost by my guardian."
"Who was your guardian?"
"Mr. Benjamin Fielding."
"I knew him well. I don't think he was an unprincipled man, but he was certainly imprudent, and was led into acts that were reprehensible. Did he lose all your money for you?"
"What did you do?"
"Left the boarding school where I was being educated, and came to this city."
"Did you obtain any employment?"
"Yes, sir; I have been employed for a short time by Otis Goodnow, a merchant of Reade Street."
"And why did you leave?"
"Because Mr. Goodnow missed some articles from his stock, and I was charged with taking them."
Rodney was fearful of the effect of his frank confession upon Mr. Sargent, but the latter soon reassured him.
"Your honesty in restoring my sister's jewelry is sufficient proof that the charge was unfounded. I shall not let it influence me."
"Thank you, sir."
"Now as to the position of teacher, though very young, I don't see why you should not fill it satisfactorily. I will call Arthur."
He went to the door and called "Arthur."
A delicate looking boy with a sweet, intelligent face, came running into the room.
"Do you want me, papa?"
"Yes, Arthur. I have a new friend for you. Will you shake hands with him?"
Arthur, who was not a shy boy, went up at once to Rodney and offered his hand.
"I am glad to see you," he said.
Rodney smiled. He was quite taken with the young boy.
"What's your name?" the latter asked.
"Are you going to stay and make us a visit?"
Mr. Sargent answered this question.
"Would you like to have Rodney stay?" he asked.
"How would you like to have him give you lessons in Latin and other studies?"
"I should like it. I am sure he wouldn't be cross. Are you a teacher, Rodney?"
"I will be your teacher if you are willing to have me."
"Yes, I should like it. And will you go to walk with me in Central Park?"
"Then, papa, you may as well engage him. I was afraid you would get a tiresome old man for my teacher."
"That settles it, Rodney," said Mr. Sargent, smiling. "Now, Arthur, run out and I will speak further with Rodney about you."
"All right, papa."
"As Arthur seems to like you, I will give you a trial. As he suggested, I should like to have you become his companion as well as teacher. You will come here at nine o'clock in the morning, and stay till four, taking lunch with your pupil. About the compensation, will you tell me what will be satisfactory to you?"
"I prefer to leave that to you, sir."
"Then we will say fifteen dollars a week—today is Thursday. Will you present yourself here next Monday morning?"
"If you would like an advance of salary, you need only say so."
"Thank you, sir, but I am fairly provided with money for the present."
"Then nothing more need be said. As I am to meet a gentleman at the Union League Club tonight, I will bid you good evening, and expect to see you on Monday."
Rodney rose and Mr. Sargent accompanied him to the door, shaking hands with him courteously by way of farewell.
Rodney emerged into the street in a state of joyous excitement. Twenty five dollars in his pocket, and fifteen dollars a week! He could hardly credit his good fortune.
Mike Flynn was overjoyed to hear of Rodney's good fortune.
"Fifteen dollars a week!" he repeated. "Why you will be rich."
"Not exactly that, Mike, but it will make me comfortable. By the way, as I have so much more than you, it will only be fair for me to pay the whole rent."
"No, Rodney, you mustn't do that."
"I shall insist upon it, Mike. You would do the same in my place."
"Yes I would."
"So you can't object to my doing it."
"You are very kind to me, Rodney," said Mike, who had the warm heart of his race. "It isn't every boy brought up like you who would be willing to room with a bootblack."
"But you are not a bootblack now. You are a telegraph boy."
"There are plenty that mind me when I blacked boots down in front of the Astor House."
"You are just as good a boy for all that. How much did you make last week?"
"Four dollars salary, and a dollar and a half in extra tips."
"Hereafter you must save your rent money for clothes. We must have you looking respectable."
"Won't you adopt me, Rodney?" asked Mike with a laughing face.
"That's a good idea. Perhaps I will. In that case you must obey all my orders. In the first place, what are you most in want in the way of clothing?"
"I haven't got but two shirts."
"That is hardly enough for a gentleman of your social position. Anything else."
"I'm short on collars and socks."
"Then we'll go out shopping. I'll buy you a supply of each."
"But you haven't begun to work yet."
"No, but Mrs. Harvey made me a present of twenty five dollars. We'll go to some of the big stores on Sixth Avenue where we can get furnishing goods cheap."
Rodney carried out his purpose, and at the cost of four dollars supplied his room mate with all he needed for the present.
"See what it is to be rich, Mike," he said. "It seems odd for me to be buying clothes for my adopted son."
"You're in luck, Rodney, and so am I. I hope some time I can do you a favor."
"Perhaps you can, Mike. If I should get sick, you might take my place as tutor."
"You must know an awful lot, Rodney," said Mike, regarding his companion with new respect.
"Thank you for the compliment, Mike. I hope Mr. Sargent will have the same opinion."
The next day it is needless to say that Rodney did not resume the business of newsboy. He was very glad to give it up. He dressed with unusual care and took a walk down town.
As he passed Reade Street by chance Jasper was coming around the corner. His face lighted up first with pleasure at seeing Rodney, for it gratified his mean nature to triumph over the boy whom he had ousted from his position, and next with surprise at his unusually neat and well dressed appearance. Rodney looked far from needing help. He might readily have been taken for a boy of aristocratic lineage.
"Hallo!" said Jasper, surveying Rodney curiously.
"How are you this morning, Jasper?" returned Rodney quietly.
"Why ain't you selling papers?"
"I don't like the business."
"But you've got to make a living."
"Are you going to black boots?"
"Why should I? Is it a desirable business?"
"How should I know?" asked Jasper, coloring.
"I didn't know but you might have had some experience at it. I haven't."
"Do you mean to insult me?" demanded Jasper hotly.
"I never insult anybody. I will only say that you are as likely to take up the business as I."
"I've got a place."
"How do you know but I have?"
"Because you were selling papers yesterday and are walking the street today."
"That is true. But I have a place engaged for all that. I shall go to work on Monday."
Jasper pricked up his ears.
"Where is it?" he asked.
"I don't care to tell at present."
"Is it true? Have you got a place?"
"I don't see how you could. Mr. Goodnow wouldn't give you a recommendation."
"There is no reason why he should not."
"What, after your taking cloaks and dress patterns from the store?"
"I did nothing of the kind. Sooner or later Mr. Goodnow will find out his mistake. Probably the real thief is still in his employ."
Jasper turned pale and regarded Rodney searchingly, but there was nothing in his manner or expression to indicate that his remark had been personal. He thought it best to turn the conversation.
"How much pay do you get—four dollars?"
"More than that."
"You don't get as much as you did at our store?"
"Yes; I get more."
Now it was Jasper's turn to show surprise. He did not know whether to believe Rodney or not, but there was something in his face which commanded belief.
"How much do you get?" he asked.
"You would not believe me if I told you."
"Try me," returned Jasper, whose curiosity was aroused.
"I am to get fifteen dollars a week."
Jasper would not have looked more surprised if Rodney had informed him that he was to become a Cabinet minister.
"You're joking!" he ejaculated.
"Not at all."
"How could you have the face to ask such a price. Did you pass yourself off as an experienced salesman?"
"I don't understand it at all, that is, if you are telling the truth."
"I have told you the truth, Jasper. I have no object in deceiving you. The salary was fixed by my employer."
"Who did you say it was?"
"I didn't say."
Jasper's cunning scheme was defeated. He felt disturbed to hear of Rodney's good fortune, but he had a shot in reserve.
"I don't think you will keep your place long," he said in a malicious tone.
"Your employer will hear under what circumstances you left our store, and then of course he will discharge you."
"You will be sorry for that won't you?" asked Rodney pointedly.
"Why of course I don't want you to have bad luck."
"Thank you. You are very considerate."
"Suppose you lose your place, shall you go back to selling papers?"
"I hope to find something better to do."
"Where are you going now?"
"To get some lunch."
"So am I. Suppose we go together."
"Very well, providing you will lunch with me."
"I don't want to impose upon you."
"You won't. We may not meet again for some time, and we shall have this meal to remind us of each other."
They went to a well known restaurant on Park Row. Rodney ordered a liberal dinner for himself, and Jasper followed his example nothing loath. He was always ready to dine at the expense of others, but even as he ate he could not help wondering at the strange chance that had made him the guest of a boy who was selling papers the day before.
He had nearly finished eating when a disturbing thought occurred to him. Suppose Rodney didn't have money enough to settle the bill, and threw it upon him.
When Rodney took the checks and walked up to the cashier's desk he followed him with some anxiety. But his companion quietly took out a five dollar bill, from his pocket and tendered it to the cashier. The latter gave him back the right change and the two boys went out into the street.
"You seem to have plenty of money," said Jasper.
"There are very few who would admit having that," smiled Rodney.
"I don't see why you sold papers if you have five dollar bills in your pocket."
"I don't want to be idle."
"May I tell my uncle and Mr. Goodnow that you have got a place?"
"If you like."
"Well, good by, I must be hurrying back to the store."
Rodney smiled. He rather enjoyed Jasper's surprise and perplexity.
RODNEY'S SECRET IS DISCOVERED.
Jasper lost no time in acquainting his uncle with Rodney's extraordinary good fortune. James Redwood was surprised, but not all together incredulous.
"I don't understand it," he said, "but Ropes appears to be a boy of truth. Perhaps he may have exaggerated the amount of his salary."
"I hardly think so, uncle. He gave me a tip top dinner down on Park Row."
"He may have been in funds from selling the articles taken from the store."
"That's so!" assented Jasper, who had the best possible reason for knowing that it was not so.
"I wish the boy well," said his uncle. "He always treated me respectfully, and I never had anything against him except the loss of stock, and it is not certain that he is the thief."
"I guess there isn't any doubt about that."
"Yet, believing him to be a thief, you did not hesitate to accept a dinner from him."
"I didn't want to hurt his feelings," replied Jasper, rather sheepishly.
"Do you know what sort of a place he has got, or with what house?"
"No; he wouldn't tell me."
"He thought perhaps you would inform the new firm of the circumstances under which he left us. I don't blame him, but I am surprised that he should have been engaged without a recommendation."
"Shall you tell Mr. Goodnow?"
"Not unless he asks about Ropes. I don't want to interfere with the boy in any way."
In the store, as has already been stated, Jasper succeeded to Rodney's place, and in consequence his pay was raised to seven dollars a week. Still it was not equal to what it had been when he was receiving additional money from the sale of the articles stolen by Philip Carton and himself.
The way in which they had operated was this: Philip would come in and buy a cloak or a dress pattern from Jasper, and the young salesman would pack up two or three instead of one. There was a drawback to the profit in those cases, as Carton would be obliged to sell both at a reduced price. Still they had made a considerable sum from these transactions, though not nearly as much as Mr. Goodnow had lost.
After the discovery of the theft and the discharge of Rodney, the two confederates felt that it would be imprudent to do any more in that line. This suspension entailed heavier loss on Carton than on Jasper. The latter had a fixed income and a home at his uncle's house, while Philip had no regular income, though he occasionally secured a little temporary employment.
In the meantime Rodney had commenced his tutorship. His young pupil became very fond of him, and being a studious boy, made rapid progress in his lessons.
Mr. Sargent felt that his experiment, rash as it might be considered, vindicated his wisdom by its success. At the end of a month he voluntarily raised Rodney's salary to twenty dollars a week.
"I am afraid you are overpaying me, Mr. Sargent," said Rodney.
"That's my lookout. Good service is worth a good salary, and I am perfectly satisfied with you."
"Thank you, sir. I prize that even more than the higher salary."
Only a portion of Rodney's time was spent in teaching. In the afternoon he and his charge went on little excursions, generally to Central Park.
One holiday, about four months after the commencement of Rodney's engagement, he was walking in the Park when he fell in with Jasper. Jasper's attention was at once drawn to the little boy, whose dress and general appearance indicated that he belonged to a wealthy family. This excited Jasper's curiosity.
"How are you, Rodney?" said Jasper adroitly. "It is a good while since I met you."
"Who is the little boy with you?"
"His name is Arthur Sargent."
Rodney gave this information unwillingly, for he saw that his secret was likely to be discovered.
"How do you do, Arthur?" asked Jasper, with unwonted affability, for he did not care for children.
"Pretty well," answered Arthur politely.
"Have you known Rodney long?"
"Why, he is my teacher," answered Arthur in some surprise.
Jasper's eyes gleamed with sudden intelligence. So this was Rodney's secret, and this was the position for which he was so well paid.
Rodney bit his lip in vexation, but made no remark.
"Does he ever punish you for not getting your lessons?" asked Jasper without much tact.
"Of course not," answered Arthur indignantly.
"Arthur always does get his lessons," said Rodney. "I suppose you have a holiday from work today, Jasper."
"Yes; I am glad to get away now and then."
"I must bid you good morning now."
"Won't you let me call on you? Where do you live, Arthur?"
The boy gave the number of his house.
Jasper asked Arthur, thinking rightly that he would be more likely to get an answer from him than from Rodney. He walked away triumphantly, feeling that he had made a discovery that might prove of advantage to him.
"Is that a friend of yours, Rodney?" asked little Arthur.
"I have known him for some time."
"I don't like him very much."
"Why?" asked Rodney with some curiosity.
"I don't know," answered the little boy slowly. "I can't like everybody."
"Quite true, Arthur. Jasper is not a special friend of mine, and I am not particular about your liking him. I hope you like me."
"You know I do, Rodney," and he gave Rodney's hand an assuring pressure.
Ten minutes after he left Rodney, Jasper fell in with Carton. The intimacy between them had perceptibly fallen off. It had grown out of business considerations.
Now that it was no longer safe to abstract articles from the store, Jasper felt that he had no more use for his late confederate. When they met he treated him with marked coldness.
On this particular day Carton was looking quite shabby. In fact, his best suit was in pawn, and he had fallen back on one half worn and soiled.
"Hello!" exclaimed Jasper, and was about to pass on with a cool nod.
"Stop!" said Philip, looking offended.
"I am in a hurry," returned Jasper. "I can't stop today."
"You are in a hurry, and on a holiday?"
"Yes; I am to meet a friend near the lake."
"I'll go along with you."
Jasper had to submit though with an ill grace.
"Wouldn't another day do?"
"No; the fact is, Jasper, I am in trouble,"
"You usually are," sneered Jasper.
"That is so. I have been out of luck lately."
"I am sorry, but I can't help it as I see."
"How much money do you think I have in my pocket?"
"I don't know, I am sure. I am not good at guessing conundrums."
"Just ten cents."
"That isn't much," said Jasper, indifferently.
"Let me have a dollar, thats a good fellow!"
"You seem to think I am made of money," said Jasper sharply. "I haven't got much more myself."
"Then you might have. You get a good salary."
"Only seven dollars."
"You are able to keep most of it for yourself."
"Suppose I am? You seem to know a good deal of my affairs."
"Haven't you any pity for an old friend?"
"Yes, I'll give you all the pity you want, but when it comes to money it's a different matter. Here you are, a man of twenty six, ten years older than me, and yet you expect me to help support you."
"You didn't use to talk to me like that."
"Well, I do now. You didn't use to try to get money out of me."
"Look here, Jasper! I am poor, but I don't want you to talk to me as you are doing."
"Indeed!" sneered Jasper.
"And I won't have it," said Carton firmly. "Listen to me, and I will propose a plan that will help us both."
"What is it?"
"You can easily secrete articles, if you are cautious, without attracting notice, and I will dispose of them and share the money with you."
Jasper shook his head.
"I wouldn't dare to do it," he said. "Somebody might spy on me."
"Not if you are careful."
"If it were found out I would be bounced like Ropes."
"What is he doing? Have you seen him lately?"
"He is getting on finely. He is earning fifteen dollars a week."
"You don't mean it?"
"Yes I do."
"What firm is he working for?"
"For none at all. He is tutor to a young kid."
"I didn't know he was scholar enough."
"Oh yes, he knows Greek and Latin and a lot of other stuff."
"Who is the boy?"
"I don't feel at liberty to tell. I don't think he would care to have you know."
"I'll tell you what you can do. Borrow five dollars of him for me."
"I don't know about that. If I were to borrow it would be for myself."
"You can do as you please. If you don't do something for me I will write to Mr. Goodnow that you are the thief who stole the cloaks and dress patterns."
"You wouldn't do that?" exclaimed Jasper in consternation.
"Wouldn't I? I am desperate enough to do anything."
After a little further conference Jasper agreed to do what was asked of him. He did not dare to refuse.
Rodney was considerably surprised one evening to receive a call from Jasper in his room. He was alone, as Mike had been detailed about a week ago for night duty. The room looked more attractive than formerly. Rodney had bought a writing desk, which stood in the corner, and had put up three pictures, which, though cheap, were attractive.
"Good evening, Jasper," he said. "It is quite friendly of you to call."
"I hadn't anything else on hand this evening, and thought I would come round see how you were getting along."
"Take a seat and make yourself at home."
"Do you object to cigarettes?" asked Jasper, producing one from a case in his pocket.
"I object to smoking them myself, but I don't want to dictate to my friends."
"You look quite comfortable here," continued Jasper in a patronizing tone.
"We try to be comfortable, though our room is not luxurious."
"Who do you mean by 'we'? Have you a room mate?"
"Yes. Mike Flynn rooms with me."
"Who is he—a newsboy?"
"No. He is a telegraph boy."
"You don't seem to very particular," said Jasper, shrugging his shoulders.
"I am very particular."
"Yet you room with an Irish telegraph boy."
"He is a nice boy of good habit, and a devoted friend. What could I want more?"
"Oh, well, you have a right to consult your own taste."
"You have a nice home, no doubt."
"I live with my uncle. Yes, he has a good house, but I am not so independent as if I had a room outide."
"How are things going on at the store?"
"About the same as usual. Why don't you come in some day?"
"For two reasons; I am occupied during the day, and I don't want to go where I am considered a thief."
"I wish I was getting your income. It is hard to get along on seven dollars a week."
"Still you have a nice home, and I suppose you have most of your salary to yourself."
"Yes, but there isn't much margin in seven dollars. My uncle expects me to buy my own clothes. You were lucky to get out of the store. Old Goodnow ought to give me ten dollars."
"Don't let him hear you speak of him as OLD Goodnow, Jasper."
"Oh, I'm smart enough for that. I mean to keep on the right side of the old chap. What sort of a man are you working for?"
"Mr. Sargent is a fine man."
"He isn't mean certainly. I should like to be in your shoes."
"If I hear of any similar position shall I mention your name?" asked Rodney, smiling.
"No; I could not take care of a kid. I hate them."
"Still Arthur is a nice boy."
"You are welcome to him. What do you have to teach?"
"He is studying Latin and French, besides English branches."
"I know about as much of Latin and French as a cow. I couldn't be a teacher. I say, Rodney," and Jasper cleared his throat, "I want you to do me a favor."
"What is it?"
"I want you to lend me ten dollars."
Rodney was not mean, but he knew very well that a loan to Jasper would be a permanent one. Had Jasper been his friend even this consideration would not have inspired a refusal, but he knew very well that Jasper had not a particle of regard for him.
"I don't think I can oblige you, Jasper," he said.
"Why not? You get fifteen dollars a week."
"My expenses are considerable. Besides I am helping Mike, whose salary is very small. I pay the whole of the rent and I have paid for some clothes for him."
"You are spending your money very foolishly," said Jasper frowning.
"Would I spend it any less foolishly if I should lend you ten dollars?"
"There is some difference between Mike Flynn and me. I am a gentleman."
"So is Mike."
"A queer sort of gentleman! He is only a poor telegraph boy."
"Still he is a gentleman."
"I should think you might have money enough for both of us."
"I might but I want to save something from my salary. I don't know how long I shall be earning as much. I might lose my place."
"So you might."
"And I could hardly expect to get another where the pay would be as good."
"I would pay you on installment—a dollar a week," urged Jasper.
"I don't see how you could, as you say your pay is too small for you now."
"Oh, well, I could manage."
"I am afraid I can't oblige you, Jasper," said Rodney in a decided tone.
"I didn't think you were so miserly," answered Jasper in vexation.
"You may call it so, if you like. You must remember that I am not situated like you. You have your uncle to fall back upon in case you lose your position, but I have no one. I have to hustle for myself."
"Oh, you needn't make any more excuses. I suppose ten dollars is rather a large sum to lend. Can you lend me five?"
"I am sorry, but I must refuse you."
Jasper rose from the chair on which he had been sitting.
"Then I may as well go," he said. "I am disappointed in you, Ropes. I thought you were a good, whole souled fellow, and not a miser."
"You must think of me as you please, Jasper. I feel that I have a right to regulate my own affairs."
"All I have to say is this, if you lose your place as you may very soon, don't come round to the store and expect to be taken back."
"I won't," answered Rodney, smiling. "I wouldn't go back at any rate unless the charge of theft was withdrawn."
"That will never be!"
"Let it be so, as long as I am innocent."
Jasper left the room abruptly, not even having the politeness to bid Rodney good evening.
Rodney felt that he was quite justified in refusing to lend Jasper money. Had he been in need he would have obliged him, though he had no reason to look upon him as a friend.
No one who knew Rodney could regard him as mean or miserly. Could he have read Jasper's thoughts as he left the house he would have felt even less regret at disappointing him.
About two days afterward when Rodney went up to meet his pupil, Mr. Sargent handed him a letter.
"Here is something that concerns you, Rodney," he said. "It doesn't appear to be from a friend of yours."
With some curiosity Rodney took the letter and read it.
It ran thus:
Mr. JOHN SARGENT:
DEAR SIR—I think it my duty to write and tell you something about your son's tutor—something that will surprise and shock you. Before he entered your house he was employed by a firm on Reade Street. He was quite a favorite with his employer, Mr. Otis Goodnow, who promoted him in a short time. All at once it was found that articles were missing from the stock. Of course it was evident that some one of the clerks was dishonest. A watch was set, and finally it was found that Rodney Ropes had taken the articles, and one—a lady's cloak—was found in his room by a detective. He was discharged at once without a recommendation.
For a time he lived by selling papers, but at last he managed to get into your house. I am sure you won't regard him as fit to educate your little son, though I have no doubt he is a good scholar. But his character is bad—I don't think he ought to have concealed this from you out of friendship for you, and because I think it is my duty, I take the liberty of writing. If you doubt this I will refer to Mr. Goodnow, or Mr. James Redwood, who had charge of the room in which Ropes was employed. Yours very respectfully, A FRIEND.
"You knew all this before, Mr. Sargent," said Rodney, as he handed back the letter.
"Yes. Have you any idea who wrote it?"
"I feel quite sure that it was a boy about two years older than myself, Jasper Redwood."
"Is he related to the man of the same name whom he mentions?"
"Yes, he is his nephew."
"Has he any particular reason for disliking you, Rodney?"
"Yes, sir. He came round to my room Wednesday evening, and asked me to lend him ten dollars."
"I presume you refused."
"Yes, sir. He is not in need. He succeeded to my place, and he has a home at the house of his uncle."
"He appears to be a very mean boy. Anonymous letters are always cowardly, and generally malicious. This seems to be no exception to the general rule."
"I hope it won't affect your feelings towards me, Mr. Sargent."
"Don't trouble yourself about that Rodney. I am not so easily prejudiced against one of whom I have a good opinion."
"I suppose this is Jasper's revenge," thought Rodney.
RODNEY LOSES HIS PUPIL.
Jasper had little doubt that his letter would lead to Rodney's loss of position. It was certainly a mean thing to plot another's downfall, but Jasper was quite capable of it. Had he secured the loan he asked he would have been willing to leave Rodney alone, but it would only have been the first of a series of similar applications.
It was several days before Jasper had an opportunity of learning whether his malicious plan had succeeded or not. On Sunday forenoon he met Rodney on Fifth Avenue just as the church services were over. He crossed the street and accosted the boy he had tried to injure.
"Good morning, Ropes," he said, examining Rodney's face curiously to see whether it indicated trouble of any kind.
"Good morning!" responded Rodney coolly.
"How are you getting along in your place?"
"Very well, thank you."
"Shall I find you at your pupil's house if I call there some afternoon?"
"Yes, unless I am out walking with Arthur."
"I wonder whether he's bluffing," thought Jasper. "I daresay he wouldn't tell me if he had been discharged. He takes it pretty coolly."
"How long do you think your engagement will last?" he asked.
"I don't know. I never had a talk with Mr. Sargent on that point."
"Do you still give satisfaction?"
Rodney penetrated Jasper's motives for asking all these questions, and was amused.
"I presume if I fail to satisfy Mr. Sargent he will tell me so."
"It would be a nice thing if you could stay there three or four years."
"Yes: but I don't anticipate it. When Arthur get a little older he will be sent to school."
"What will you do then?"
"I haven't got so far as that."
"I can't get anything out of him," said Jasper to himself. "I shouldn't be a bit surprised if he were already discharged."
They had now reached Madison Square, and Jasper left Rodney.
The latter looked after him with a smile.
"I think I have puzzled Jasper," he said to himself. "He was anxious to know how his scheme had worked. He will have to wait a little longer."
"If Mr. Sargent keeps Ropes after my letter he must be a fool," Jasper decided. "I wonder if Ropes handles the mail. He might have suppressed the letter."
But Rodney was not familiar with his handwriting, and would have no reason to suspect that the particular letter contained anything likely to injure him in the eyes of Mr. Sargent.
Later in his walk Jasper met Philip Carton. His former friend was sitting on a bench in Madison Square. He called out to Jasper as he passed.
"Come here, Jasper, I want to talk with you."
Jasper looked at him in a manner far from friendly.
"I am in a hurry," he said.
"What hurry can you be in? Come and sit down here. I MUST speak to you."
Jasper did not like his tone, but it impressed him, and he did not dare to refuse.
He seated himself beside Philip, but looked at him askance. Carton was undeniably shabby. He had the look of a man who was going down hill and that rapidly.
"I shall be late for dinner," grumbled Jasper.
"I wish I had any dinner to look forward to," said Carton. "Do you see this money?" and he produced a nickel from his pocket.
"What is there remarkable about it?"
"It is the last money I have. It won't buy me a dinner."
"I am sorry, but it is none of my business," said Jasper coolly. "You are old enough to attend to your own affairs."
"And I once thought you were my friend," murmured Philip bitterly.
"Yes, we were friends in a way."
"Now you are up and I am down—Jasper, I want a dollar."
"I dare say you do. Plenty want that."
"I want it from you."
"I can't spare it."
"You can spare it better than you can spare your situation."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Jasper, growing nervous.
"I'll tell you what I mean. How long do you think you would stay in the store if Mr. Goodnow knew that you were concerned in the theft from which he has suffered?"
"Was I the only one?"
"No; I am equally guilty."
"I am glad you acknowledge it. You see you had better keep quiet for your own sake."
"If I keep quiet I shall starve."
"Do you want to go to prison?"
"I shouldn't mind so much if you went along, too."
"Are you crazy, Philip Carton?"
"No, I am not, but I am beginning to get sensible. If I go to prison I shall at least have enough to eat, and now I haven't."
"What do you mean by all this foolish talk?"
"I mean that if you won't give me any money I will go to the store and tell Mr. Goodnow something that will surprise him."
Jasper was getting thoroughly frightened.
"Come, Philip." he said, "listen to reason. You know how poor I am."
"No doubt. I know you have a good home and enough to eat."
"I only get seven dollars a week."
"And I get nothing."
"I have already been trying to help you. I went to Ropes the other day, and asked him to lend me five dollars. I meant it for you."
"Did he give it to you?"
"He wouldn't give me a cent. He is mean and miserly!"
"I don't know. He knows very well that you are no friend of his, though he doesn't know how much harm you have done him."
"He's rolling in money. However, I've put a spoke in his wheel, I hope."
"I wrote an anonymous letter to Mr. Sargent telling him that Ropes was discharged from the store on suspicion of theft."
"You are a precious scamp, Jasper."
"What do you mean?"
"You are not content with getting Ropes discharged for something which you yourself did——"
"And you too."
"And I too. I accept the amendment. Not content with that, you try to get him discharged from his present position."
"Then he might have lent me the money," said Jasper sullenly.
"It wouldn't have been a loan. It would have been a gift. But no matter about that. I want a dollar."
"I can't give it to you."
"Then I shall call at the store tomorrow morning and tell Mr. Goodnow about the stolen goods."
Finding that Carton was in earnest Jasper finally, but with great reluctance, drew out a dollar and handed it to his companion.
"There, I hope that will satisfy you," he said spitefully.
"It will—for the present."
"I wish he'd get run over or something," thought Jasper. "He seems to expect me to support him, and that on seven dollars a week."
Fortunately for Jasper, Philip Carton obtained employment the next day which lasted for some time, and as he was paid ten dollars a week he was not under the necessity of troubling his old confederate for loans.
Now and then Jasper and Rodney met, but there were no cordial relations between them. Jasper could not forgive Rodney for refusing to lend him money, and Rodney was not likely to forget the anonymous letter by which Jasper had tried to injure him.
So three months passed. One day Mr. Sargent arrived at home before it was time for Rodney to leave.
"I am glad to see you, Rodney," said his employer. "I have some news for you which I am afraid will not be entirely satisfactory to you."
"What is it, sir?"
"For the last three years I have been wishing to go to Europe with my wife and Arthur. The plan has been delayed, because I could not make satisfactory business arrangements. Now, however, that difficulty has been overcome, and I propose to sail in about two weeks."
"I hope you'll enjoy your trip, sir."
"Thank you. Of course it will terminate, for a time at least your engagement to teach Arthur."
"I shall be sorry for that, sir, but I am not selfish enough to want you to stay at home on that account."
"I thought you would feel that way. I wish I could procure you another position before I go, but that is uncertain. I shall, however, pay you a month's salary in advance in lieu of a notice."
"That is very liberal, sir."
"I think it only just. I have been very well pleased with your attention to Arthur, and I know he has profited by your instructions as well as enjoyed your companionship. I hope you have been able to save something."
"Yes, sir, I have something in the Union Dime Savings Bank."
"That's well. You will remain with me one week longer, but the last week Arthur will need for preparations."
Two weeks later Rodney stood on the pier and watched the stately Etruria steam out into the river. Arthur and his father were on deck, and the little boy waved his handkerchief to his tutor as long as he could see him.
Rodney turned away sadly.
"I have lost a good situation," he soliloquized. "When shall I get another?"
CONTINUED ILL LUCK.
Rodney set himself to work searching for a new situation. But wherever he called he found Some one ahead of him. At length he saw an advertisement for an entry clerk in a wholesale house in Church Street. He applied and had the good fortune to please the superintendent.
"Where have you worked before?" he asked.
"At Otis Goodnow's, on Reade Street."
"How much were you paid there?"
"Seven dollars a week."
"Very well, we will start you on that salary, and see if you earn it."
Rodney was surprised and relieved to find that he was not asked for a recommendation from Mr. Goodnow, knowing that he could not obtain one. He went to work on a Monday morning, and found his duties congenial and satisfactory.
Seven dollars a week was small, compared with what he had received as a tutor, but he had about two hundred and fifty dollars in the Union Dime Savings Bank and drew three dollars from this fund every week in order that he might still assist Mike, whose earnings were small.
One of his new acquaintances in the store was James Hicks, a boy about a year older than himself.
"Didn't you use to work at Otis Goodnow's?" asked James one day when they were going to lunch.
"I know a boy employed there. He is older than either of us."
"Who is it?"
"Jasper Redwood. Of course you know him."
"Yes," answered Rodney with a presentiment of evil.
He felt that it would be dangerous to have Jasper know of his present position, but did not venture to give a hint of this to James.
His fears were not groundless. Only the day after James met Jasper on the street.
"Anything new?" asked Jasper.
"Yes; we've got one of your old friends in our store."
"Who is it?"
Jasper stopped short, and whistled. He was excessively surprised, as he supposed Rodney still to be Arthur Sargent's tutor.
"You don't mean it?" he ejaculated.
"Why not? Is there anything so strange about it?"
"Yes. Did Ropes bring a recommendation from Mr. Goodnow?"
"I suppose so. I don't know."
"If he did, it's forged."
"Why should it be?"
"Goodnow wouldn't give him a recommendation."
"Why wouldn't he?"
"Because he discharged Ropes. Do you want to know why?"
"For stealing articles from the store."
It was the turn of James Hicks to be surprised.
"I can't believe it," he said.
"Its true. Just mention the matter to Ropes, and you'll see he won't deny it."
"I think there must be some mistake about it. Rodney doesn't look like a fellow that would steal."
"Oh, you can't tell from appearances—Rogues are always plausible."
"Still mistakes are sometimes made. I'd trust Rodney Ropes sooner than any boy I know."
"You don't know him as well as I do."
"You don't like him?" said James shrewdly.
"No I don't. I can't like a thief."
"You talk as if you had a grudge against him."
"Nothing but his being a thief. Well, what are you going to do about it?"
"What I have just told you."
"I don't feel that I have any call to do anything."
"You ought to tell your employer."
"I am no telltale," said James scornfully.
"Then you will let him stay in the store, knowing him to be a thief?"
"I don't know him to be a thief. If he steals anything it will probably be found out."
Jasper urged James to give information about Rodney, but he steadily refused.
"I leave others to do such dirty work," he said, "and I don't think any better of you, let me tell you, for your eagerness to turn the boy out of his position."
"You are a queer boy."
"Think so if you like," retorted Hicks. "I might give my opinion of you."
At this point Jasper thought it best to let the conversation drop. He was much pleased to learn that Rodney had lost his fine position as tutor, and was now in a place from which he might more easily be ousted.
As he could not prevail upon James Hicks to betray Rodney he decided to write an anonymous letter to the firm that employed him.
The result was that the next afternoon Rodney was summoned to the office.
"Sit down Ropes," said the superintendent. "For what store did you work before you came into our house?"
"Under what circumstances did you leave?"
"I was accused of theft."
"You did not mention this matter when you applied for a situation here."
"No, sir. I ought perhaps to have done so, but I presumed in that case you would not have given me a place."
"You are right he would not."
"Nor would I have applied had the charge been a true one. Articles were certainly missing from Mr. Goodnow's stock, but in accusing me they did me a great injustice."
"How long since you left Mr. Goodnow's?"
"What have you been doing since?"
"I was acting as tutor to the son of Mr. Sargent, of West Fifty Eighth Street."
"A well known citizen. Then you are a scholar?"
"Yes, sir, I am nearly prepared for college."
"Of course he did not know you were suspected of dishonesty."
"On the contrary he did know it. I told him, and later he received an anonymous letter, notifying him of the fact."
"We also have received an anonymous letter. Here it is. Do you recognize the hand writing?"
"Yes," answered Rodney after examining the letter. "It was written by Jasper Redwood."
"Who is he?"
"A boy employed by Mr. Goodnow. For some reason he seems to have a spite against me."
"I admit that it is pretty small business to write an anonymous letter calculated to injure another. Still we shall have to take notice of this."
"Yes, sir, I suppose so."
"I shall have to bring it to the notice of the firm. What they may do I don't know. If the matter was to be decided by me I would let you stay."
"Thank you, sir," said Rodney gratefully.
"But I am not Mr. Hall. You can go now and I will see you again."
Rodney left the office fully persuaded that his engagement would speedily terminate. He was right; the next day he was sent for again.
"I am sorry to tell you, Ropes," said the superintendent kindly "that Mr. Hall insists upon your being discharged. He is a nervous man and rather suspicious. I spoke in your favor but I could not turn him."
"At any rate I am grateful to you for your friendly effort."
The superintendent hesitated a moment, and then said: "Will this discharge seriously embarrass you? Are you short of money?"
"No, sir. I was very liberally paid by Mr. Sargent, and I saved money. I have enough in the savings bank to last me several months, should I be idle so long."
"I am glad of it. I hope you will remember, my boy, that this is none of my doing. I would gladly retain you. I will say one thing more, should Jasper Redwood ever apply for a situation here, his name will not be considered."
So Rodney found himself again without a position. It seemed hard in view of his innocence, but he had confidence to believe that something would turn up for him as before. At any rate he had enough money to live on for some time.
When Mike Flynn learned the circumstances of his discharge he was very angry.
"I'd like to meet Jasper Redwood," he said, his eyes flashing. "If I didn't give him a laying out then my name isn't Mike Flynn."
"I think he will get his desert some time, Mickey, without any help from you or me."
"Should hope he will. And what'll you do now, Rodney?"
"I don't know. Sometimes I think it would be well to go to some other city, Boston or Philadelphia, where Jasper can't get on my track."
"Should hope you won't do it. I can't get along widout you."
"I will stay here for a few weeks, Mike, and see if anything turns up."
"I might get you in as a telegraph boy."
"That wouldn't suit me. It doesn't pay enough."
Rodney began to hunt for a situation again, but four weeks passed and brought him no success. One afternoon about four o'clock he was walking up Broadway when, feeling tired, he stepped into the Continental Hotel at the corner of Twentieth Street.
He took a seat at some distance back from the door, and in a desultory way began to look about him. All at once he started in surprise, for in a man sitting in one of the front row of chairs he recognized Louis Wheeler, the railroad thief who had stolen his box of jewelry.
Wheeler was conversing with a man with a large flapping sombrero, and whose dress and general appearance indicated that he was a Westerner.
Rodney left his seat and going forward sat down in the chair behind Wheeler. He suspected that the Western man was in danger of being victimized.
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE TURNS UP.
In his new position Rodney could easily hear the conversation which took place between the Western man and his old railroad acquaintance.
"I am quite a man of leisure," said Wheeler, "and it will give me great pleasure to go about with you and show you our city."
"You are very obliging."
"Oh, don't mention it. I shall really be glad to have my time occupied. You see I am a man of means—my father left me a fortune—and so I am not engaged in any business."
"You are in luck. I was brought up on a farm in Vermont, and had to borrow money to take me to Montana four years ago."
"I hope you prospered in your new home?"
"I did. I picked up twenty five thousand dollars at the mines, and doubled it by investment in lots in Helena."
"Very neat, indeed. I inherited a fortune from my father—a hundred and twenty five thousand dollars—but I never made a cent myself. I don't know whether I am smart enough."
"Come out to Montana and I'll put you in a way of making some money."
"Really, now, that suggestion strikes me favorably. I believe I will follow your advice. When shall you return to your Western home?"
"In about a fortnight I think."
"You must go to the theater tonight. There is a good play on at the Madison Square."
"I don't mind. When can I get ticket?"
"I'll go and secure some. It is only a few blocks away."
"Do so. How much are the tickets?"
"A dollar and a half or two dollars each."
"Here are five dollars, if it won't trouble you too much."
"My dear friend, I meant to pay for the tickets. However, I will pay next time. If you will remain here I will be back in twenty minutes."
Louis Wheeler left the hotel with the five dollars tucked away in his vest pocket.
He had no sooner disappeared than Rodney went forward and occupied his seat.
"Excuse me, sir," he said to the miner, "but do you know much of the man who has just left you?"
"I only met him here. He seems a good natured fellow. What of him?"
"He said he was a man of independent means."
"He is a thief and an adventurer."
The miner was instantly on the alert.
"How do you know this?" he asked.
"Because he stole a box of jewelry from me in the cars some months ago."
"Did you get it again?"
"Yes; he left the train, but I followed him up and reclaimed the jewelry."
"Was it of much value?"
"They were family jewels, and were worth over a thousand dollars."
"Do you think he wants to bunco me?"
"I have no doubt of it."
"I have given him money to buy theater tickets. Do you think he will come back?"
"Yes. He wouldn't be satisfied with that small sum."
"Tell me about your adventure with him."
"I will do it later. The theater is so near that he might come back and surprise us together. I think he would recognize me."
"Do you advise me to go to the theater?"
"Yes, but be on your guard."
"Where can I see you again?"
"Are you staying at this hotel?"
"Yes. Here is my card."
Rodney read this name on the card:
"I wish you were going to the theater with us."
"It wouldn't do. Mr. Wheeler would remember me."
"Then come round and breakfast with me tomorrow—at eight o'clock, sharp."
"I will, sir. Now I will take a back seat, and leave you to receive your friend."
"Don't call him my friend. He seems to be a mean scoundrel."
"Don't let him suspect anything from your manner."
"I won't. I want to see him expose his plans." Five minutes afterwards Louis Wheeler entered the hotel.
"I've got the tickets," he said, "but I had to buy them of a speculator, and they cost me more than I expected."
"Two and a half apiece. So there is no change coming back to you."
"Never mind! As long as you had enough money to pay for them it is all right."
As a matter of fact Wheeler bought the tickets at the box office at one dollar and fifty cent each, which left him a profit of two dollars. When he saw how easily the Western man took it he regretted not having represented that the tickets cost three dollars each.
However, he decided that there would be other ways of plundering his new acquaintance. He took his seat again next to the miner.
"It is not very late," he said. "Would you like a run out to Central Park or to Grant's Tomb?"
"Not today. I feel rather tired. By the way, you did not mention your name."
"I haven't a card with me, but my name is Louis Wheeler."
"Where do you live, Mr. Wheeler?"
"I am staying with an aunt on Fifth Avenue, but I think of taking board at the Windsor Hotel. It is a very high toned house, and quite a number of my friends board there."
"Is it an expensive hotel?"
"Oh, yes, but my income is large and——"
"I understand. Now, Mr. Wheeler, I must excuse myself, as I feel tired. Come at half past seven and we can start for the theater together."
Wheeler rose reluctantly, for he had intended to secure a dinner from his new acquaintance, but he was wise enough to take the hint.
After he left the room Rodney again joined Mr. Pettigrew.
"He didn't give me back any change," said the Western man. "He said he bought the tickets of a speculator at two dollars and a half each."
"Then he made two dollars out of you."
"I suppose that is the beginning. Well, that doesn't worry me. But I should like to know how he expects to get more money out of me. I don't understand the ways of this gentry."
"Nor I very well. If you are on your guard I think you won't be in any danger."
"I will remember what you say. You seem young to act as adviser to a man like me. Are you in business?"
"At present I am out of work, but I have money enough to last me three months."
"Are you, like my new acquaintance, possessed of independent means?"
"Not now, but I was six months ago."
"How did you lose your money?"
"I did not lose it. My guardian lost it for me."
"What is your name?"
"You've had some pretty bad luck. Come up to my room and tell me about it."
"I shall be glad to do so, sir."
Mr. Pettigrew called for his key and led the way up to a plain room on the third floor.
"Come in," he said. "The room is small, but I guess it will hold us both. Now go ahead with your story."
In a short time Rodney had told his story in full to his new acquaintance, encouraged to do so by his sympathetic manner. Mr. Pettigrew was quite indignant, when told of Jasper's mean and treacherous conduct.
"That boy Jasper is a snake in the grass," he said. "I'd like to give him a good thrashing."
"There isn't any love lost between us, Mr. Pettigrew, but I think it will turn out right in the end. Still I find it hard to get a place in New York with him circulating stories about me."
"Then why do you stay in New York?"
"I have thought it might be better to go to Philadelphia or Boston."
"I can tell you of a better place than either."
"What is that?"
"Do you really think it would be wise for me to go there?"
"Think? I haven't a doubt about it."
"I have money enough to get there, but not much more. I should soon have to find work, or I might get stranded."
"Come back with me, and I'll see you through. I'll make a bargain with you. Go round with me here, and I'll pay your fare out to Montana."
"If you are really in earnest I will do so, and thank you for the offer."
"Jefferson Pettigrew means what he says. I'll see you through, Rodney."
"But I may be interfering with your other friend, Louis Wheeler."
"I shall soon be through with him. You needn't worry yourself about that."
Mr. Pettigrew insisted upon Rodney's taking supper with him. Fifteen minutes after Rodney left him Mr. Wheeler made his appearance.
MR. WHEELER HAS A SET BACK.
Louis Wheeler had not seen Rodney in the hotel office, and probably would not have recognized him if he had, as Rodney was quite differently dressed from the time of their first meeting. He had no reason to suppose, therefore, that Mr. Pettigrew had been enlightened as to his real character.
It was therefore with his usual confidence that he accosted his acquaintance from Montana after supper.
"It is time to go to the theater, Mr. Pettigrew," he said.
Jefferson Pettigrew scanned his new acquaintance with interest. He had never before met a man of his type and he looked upon him as a curiosity.
He was shrewd, however, and did not propose to let Wheeler know that he understood his character. He resolved for the present to play the part of the bluff and unsuspecting country visitor.
"You are very kind, Mr. Wheeler," he said, "to take so much trouble for a stranger."
"My dear sir," said Wheeler effusively, "I wouldn't do it for many persons, but I have taken a fancy to you."
"You don't mean so?" said Pettigrew, appearing pleased?
"Yes, I do, on my honor."
"But I don't see why you should. You are a polished city gentleman and I am an ignorant miner from Montana."
Louis Wheeler looked complacent when he was referred to as a polished city gentleman.
"You do yourself injustice, my dear Pettigrew," he said in a patronizing manner. "You do indeed. You may not be polished, but you are certainly smart, as you have shown by accumulating a fortune."
"But I am not as rich as you."
"Perhaps not, but if I should lose my money, I could not make another fortune, while I am sure you could. Don't you think it would be a good plan for us to start a business together in New York?"
"Would you really be willing to go into business with me?"
Jefferson Pettigrew asked this question with so much apparent sincerity that Wheeler was completely deceived.
"I've got him dead!" he soliloquized complacently.
He hooked his arm affectionately in the Montana miner's and said, "My dear friend, I have never met a man with whom I would rather be associated in business than with you. How much capital could you contribute?"
"I will think it over, Mr. Wheeler. By the way what business do you propose that we shall go into?"
"I will think it over and report to you."
By this time they had reached the theater. The play soon commenced. Mr. Pettigrew enjoyed it highly, for he had not had much opportunity at the West of attending a high class theatrical performance.
When the play ended, Louis Wheeler said, "Suppose we go to Delmonico's and have a little refreshment."
They adjourned to the well known restaurant, and Mr. Pettigrew ordered an ice and some cakes, but his companion made a hearty supper. When the bill came, Louis Wheeler let it lie on the table, but Mr. Pettigrew did not appear to see it.
"I wonder if he expects me to pay for it," Wheeler asked himself anxiously.
"Thank you for this pleasant little supper," said Pettigrew mischievously. "Delmonico's is certainly a fine place."
Wheeler changed color. He glanced at the check. It was for two dollars and seventy five cents, and this represented a larger sum than he possessed.
He took the check and led the way to the cashier's desk. Then he examined his pockets.
"By Jove," he said, "I left my wallet in my other coat. May I borrow five dollars till tomorrow?"
Jefferson Pettigrew eyed him shrewdly. "Never mind," he said, "I will pay the check."
"I am very much ashamed of having put you to this expense."
"If that is all you have to be ashamed of Mr. Wheeler," said the miner pointedly, "you can rest easy."
"What do you mean?" stammered Wheeler.
"Wait till we get into the street, and I will tell you."
They went out at the Broadway entrance, and then Mr. Pettigrew turned to his new acquaintance.
"I think I will bid you good night and good by at the same time, Mr. Wheeler," he said.
"My dear sir, I hoped you won't misjudge me on account of my unfortunately leaving my money at home."
"I only wish to tell you that I have not been taken in by your plausible statement, Mr. Wheeler, if that is really your name. Before we started for the theater I had gauged you and taken your measure."
"Sir, I hope you don't mean to insult me!" blustered Wheeler.
"Not at all. You have been mistaken in me, but I am not mistaken in you. I judge you to be a gentlemanly adventurer, ready to take advantage of any who have money and are foolish enough to be gulled by your tricks. You are welcome to the profit you made out of the theater tickets, also to the little supper to which you have done so much justice. I must request you, now, however, to devote yourself to some one else, as I do not care to meet you again."
Louis Wheeler slunk away, deciding that he had made a great mistake in setting down his Montana acquaintance as an easy victim.
"I didn't think he'd get on to my little game so quick," he reflected. "He's sharper than he looks."
Rodney took breakfast with Mr. Pettigrew the next morning. When breakfast was over, the Montana man said:
"I'm going to make a proposal to you, Rodney. How much pay did you get at your last place?"
"Seven dollars a week."
"I'll pay you that and give you your meals. In return I want you to keep me company and go about with me."
"I shall not be apt to refuse such an offer as that, Mr. Pettigrew, but are you sure you prefer me to Mr. Wheeler?" laughed Rodney.
"Wheeler be—blessed!" returned the miner.
"How long are you going to stay in New York?"
"About two weeks. Then I shall go back to Montana and take you with me."
"Thank you. There is nothing I should like better."
Two days later, as the two were walking along Broadway, they met Mr. Wheeler. The latter instantly recognized his friend from Montana, and scrutinized closely his young companion.
Rodney's face looked strangely familiar to him, but somehow he could not recollect when or under what circumstances he had met him. He did not, however, like to give up his intended victim, but had the effrontery to address the man from Montana.
"I hope you are well, Mr. Pettigrew."
"Thank you, I am very well."
"I hope you are enjoying yourself. I should be glad to show you the sights. Have you been to Grants Tomb?"
"I should like to take you there."
"Thank you, but I have a competent guide."
"Won't you introduce me to the young gentleman?"
"I don't require any introduction to you, Mr. Wheeler," said Rodney.
"Where have I met you before?" asked Wheeler abruptly.
"In the cars. I had a box of jewelry with me," answered Rodney significantly.
Louis Wheeler changed color. Now he remembered Rodney, and he was satisfied that he owed to him the coolness with which the Western man had treated him.
"I remember you had," he said spitefully, "but I don't know how you came by it."
"It isn't necessary that you should know. I remember I had considerable difficulty in getting it out of your hands."
"Mr. Pettigrew," said Wheeler angrily, "I feel interested in you, and I want to warn you against the boy who is with you. He is a dangerous companion."
"I dare say you are right," said Pettigrew in a quizzical tone. "I shall look after him sharply, and I thank you for your kind and considerate warning. I don't care to take up any more of your valuable time. Rodney, let us be going."
"It must have been the kid that exposed me," muttered Wheeler, as he watched the two go down the street. "I will get even with him some time. That man would have been good for a thousand dollars to me if I had not been interfered with."
"You have been warned against me, Mr. Pettigrew," said Rodney, laughing. "Mr. Wheeler has really been very unkind in interfering with my plans."
"I shan't borrow any trouble, or lie awake nights thinking about it, Rodney. I don't care to see or think of that rascal again."
The week passed, and the arrangement between Mr. Pettigrew and Rodney continued to their mutual satisfaction. One morning, when Rodney came to the Continental as usual, his new friend said: "I received a letter last evening from my old home in Vermont."
"I hope it contained good news."
"On the contrary it contained bad news. My parents are dead, but I have an old uncle and aunt living. When I left Burton he was comfortably fixed, with a small farm of his own, and two thousand dollars in bank. Now I hear that he is in trouble. He has lost money, and a knavish neighbor has threatened to foreclose a mortgage on the farm and turn out the old people to die or go to the poorhouse."