Eben colored, for the insinuation was plain enough for even him to understand.
"The two things had nothing to do with each other!" he said.
"That may be, but I call the attention of the judge to a very remarkable coincidence. Have the missing stamps or money been found on the person of the defendant?"
"He hasn't been searched."
"I will take it upon me to say that he is ready to submit to an examination," said Melville.
Herbert said, emphatically, "I am."
"Oh, it isn't likely you'd find anything now." said Eben, with a sneer.
"He has had plenty of time to put 'em away."
"I am willing to have my mother's house searched," said Herbert, promptly.
"Oh, they ain't there!" said Eben, significantly.
"Where are they, then?"
Eben's answer took Herbert and his lawyer, and the judge himself, by surprise.
CHAPTER XII. EBEN'S TRUMP CARD.
"I guess they're—a part of them—inside this letter," he said.
As he spoke he produced a letter, stamped and sealed, but not postmarked. The letter was addressed:
"Messrs. Jones & Fitch,
"What makes you think this letter contains money or postage stamps, Mr. Graham?" asked George Melville.
"Because I've seen an advertisement of Jones & Fitch in one of the weekly papers. They advertise to send several articles to any address on receipt of seventy-five cents in postage stamps."
"Very well. What inference do you draw from this?"
"Don't you see?" answered Eben, in malicious triumph. "That's where part of the stamps went. This letter was put into the post office by Herbert Carr this morning."
"That is not true," said Herbert, quietly.
"Maybe it isn't, but I guess you'll find Herbert Carr's name signed to the letter," said Eben.
"Have you seen the inside of the letter, Mr. Graham?"
"Then how do you know Herbert Carr's name is signed to it?"
"I don't know, but I am pretty sure it is."
"You think Herbert Carr wrote the letter?"
"If there is no objection," said Melville, "I will settle the matter by opening it."
"That's what I want you to do." said Eben Graham.
"And I also," said Herbert.
Mr. Melville deliberately cut open one end of the envelope with a small penknife, and drew out the folded sheet which it contained. As he did so, a small sheet of postage stamps fell upon the floor.
"There, do you see that?" said Eben in triumph.
The sheet of stamps contained twenty-five three-cent stamps, representing in value seventy-five cents.
"Shall I read the letter, sir?" asked Melville, of the judge.
"If there is no objection."
Melville read it aloud, as follows:
"WAYNEBORO, August 2lst. MESSRS. JONES & FITCH: I inclose seventy-five cents in stamps, and will be glad to have you send me the articles you advertise in the Weekly Gazette. Yours truly,
Herbert listened to the reading of this letter in amazement.
"I never wrote that letter," he said, "and I never heard of Jones & Fitch before."
"That's a likely story!" sneered Eben Graham. "I submit to Judge Slocum that I have proved my case. I haven't found out when all the stamps left, but I have shown where some are. One who will steal seventy-five cents' worth of stamps will steal six dollars' worth."
"I agree with you there, Mr. Graham," said George Melville. "Will you be kind enough to sit down at that table, and write to my dictation?"
"What should I do that for?" asked Eben, suspiciously.
"Never mind. Surely you can have no objection."
"Well, no; I don't know as I have, though I think it's all foolishness."
He sat down, and a pen was handed him.
"What shall I write?" he asked.
"Write 'Messrs. Jones & Fitch.'"
"What for?" demanded Eben, looking discomposed.
"That's my affair. Write."
Eben wrote the words, but he seemed to find some difficulty in doing so. It was clear that he was trying to disguise his handwriting.
"What next?" he asked.
"'I inclose seventy-five cents in stamps,'" proceeded George Melville.
"Do you want to throw suspicion on me?" asked Eben, throwing down the pen.
"Keep on writing!" said the judge.
Eben did so, but was very deliberate about it, and seemed very particular as to how he penned his letter.
"Very well!" said Melville. "Now, I wish Herbert Carr to take the pen, and I will dictate the same letter."
Herbert readily took the seat just vacated by Eben, and rapidly wrote the words dictated to him.
When he had finished his task, Mr. Melville took the two copies, and, first examining them himself, handed them, together with the original letter, to Justice Slocum.
"I have only to ask your honor," he said, "to compare these three notes and decide for yourself whether the original was written by Herbert Carr or Mr. Eben Graham, the witness against him."
Eben Graham looked very ill at ease, flushing and paling by turns while the examination was going on.
"I submit," he said, "that this is a very extraordinary way of treating a witness."
Justice Slocum, after a pause, said: "I find that Mr. Eben Graham's copy is unmistakably in the same handwriting as the original letter, purporting to be written by Herbert Carr."
"It's not so!" faltered Eben.
"Then," said George Melville, triumphantly, "as it seems clear that my young client is the victim of a base conspiracy, engineered by the man who has brought this charge of dishonesty against him, I have only to ask that he be honorably discharged."
"The request is granted," said Justice Slocum. "Herbert, you can go. It is clear that you are innocent of the charge made against you."
"I protest," began Eben Graham.
"As for you, Mr. Graham," said the justice, severely, "I have no words to express my scorn and detestation of your conduct in deliberately contriving a plot to ruin the reputation of an innocent boy, who has never done you any harm. Should Herbert Carr desire it, he is at liberty to sue you for having him arrested on a false charge trumped up by yourself."
Eben began to look frightened.
"I do not wish to punish Mr. Graham," said Herbert. "It is enough for me that my honesty has been vindicated."
"Go, then," said the justice to Eben. "It is fortunate for you that this boy is so forbearing."
Eben Graham slunk out of the justice's office, looking meaner and more contemptible than ever, while Herbert was surrounded by his friends, who congratulated him upon the happy issue of the trial.
CHAPTER XIII. EBEN'S LAST HOPE FAILS.
Ebenezer Graham had taken no stock in his son's charge against Herbert. He was not prejudiced in favor of Herbert, nor did he feel particularly friendly to him, but he was a man of shrewdness and common sense, and he knew that Herbert was not a fool. When Eben made known to him the fact that the stamps and money were missing, he said keenly: "What has become of 'em?"
"I don't know," answered Eben, "but I can guess well enough."
"Guess, then," said his father, shortly.
"You know Herbert Carr took my place last evening?"
"There's no doubt that he took the stamps and money."
"That isn't very likely."
"I feel sure of it—so sure that I mean to charge him with it."
"Well, you can see what he says."
Ebenezer did not understand that Eben intended to have the boy arrested, and would not have consented to it had he known. But Eben slipped out of the store, and arranged for the arrest without his father's knowledge. Indeed, he did not learn till the trial had already commenced, Eben having made some excuse for his absence.
When Eben returned his father greeted him in a tone very far from cordial.
"Well, Eben, I hear you've gone and made a fool of yourself?"
"I have only been defending your property, father," said Eben, sullenly. "I thought you'd appreciate it better than this."
"You've charged an innocent boy with theft, and now all his friends will lay it up agin' us."
"Were you going to be robbed without saying a word?" asked Eben.
"No, I'm not, Eben Graham; I'm goin' to say a word, and now's the time to say it. You can't pull wool over my eyes. The money's gone, and the stamps are gone, and somebody's got 'em."
"No, it isn't Herbert Carr. It's somebody nearer to me, I'm ashamed to say, than Herbert Carr."
"Do you mean to say I took them?" asked Eben.
"I won't bring a charge unless I can prove it, but I shall watch you pretty closely after this."
"In that case, I don't wish to work for you any longer; I throw up the situation," said Eben, loftily.
"Verv well. When are you going to leave town?"
"I ain't going to leave town at present."
"Where are you going to board, then?"
Eben regarded his father in dismay.
"You're not going to send me adrift, are you?" he asked, in consternation.
"I'm not going to support you in idleness; if you give up your situation in the store, you'll have to go to work for somebody else."
"I wish I could," thought Eben, thinking of the rich young man at the hotel, from whom he had sought a position as companion.
"Then I shall have to leave Wayneboro," he said; "there's nothing to do here."
"Yes, there is; Farmer Collins wants a hired man."
"A hired man!" repeated Eben, scornfully. "Do you think I am going—to hire out on a farm?"
"You might do a great deal worse," answered Ebenezer, sensibly.
"After being a dry-goods salesman in Boston, I haven't got down to that, I beg to assure you," said Eben, with an air of consequence.
"Then you will have to work in the store if you expect to stay at home," said his father. "And hark you, Eben Graham," he added, "don't report any more losses of money or stamps. I make you responsible for both."
Eben went back to his work in an uneasy frame of mind. He saw that he had not succeeded in imposing upon his father, and that the clear-sighted old gentleman strongly suspected where the missing articles had gone. Eben might have told, had he felt inclined, that the five-dollar bill had been mailed to a lottery agent in New York in payment for a ticket in a Southern lottery, and that the stamps were even now in his possession, and would be sold at the first opportunity. His plan to throw suspicion upon Herbert had utterly failed, and the cold looks with which he had been greeted showed what the villagers thought of his attempt.
"I won't stay in Wayneboro much longer," Eben inwardly resolved. "It's the dullest hole in creation. I can get along somehow in a large place, but here there's positively nothing. Hire out on a farm, indeed! My father ought to be ashamed to recommend such a thing to his only son, when he's so well off. If he would only give me two hundred dollars, I would go to California and trouble him no more. Plenty of people make money in California, and why shouldn't I? If that ticket draws a prize—"
And then Eben went into calculations of what he would do if only he drew a prize of a thousand dollars. That wasn't too much to expect, for there were several of that amount, and several considerably larger. He pictured how independent he would be with his prize, and how he would tell his father that he could get along without him, displaying at the same time a large roll of bills. When he reached California he could buy an interest in a mine, and perhaps within three or four years he could return home twenty times as rich as his father. It was pleasant to think over all this, and almost to persuade himself that the good luck had actually come. However, he must wait a few days, for the ticket had not yet come, and the lottery would not be drawn for a week.
The ticket arrived two days later; Eben took care to slip the envelope into his pocket without letting his father or anyone else see it, for unpleasant questions might have been asked as to where he got the money that paid for it, Mr. Graham knowing very well that his son had not five dollars by him.
For a few days Eben must remain in Wayneboro, until the lottery was drawn. If he was unlucky, he would have to consider some other plan for raising money to get away from Wayneboro.
It was not till the day after the trial and his triumphant acquittal, that Herbert saw Eben. He came to the store to buy some groceries for his mother.
"Good-evening, Herbert," said Eben.
"Eben," said Herbert, coldly, "except in the way of business, I don't want to speak to you."
"You don't bear malice on account of that little affair, do you, Herbert?" said Eben, smoothly.
"That little affair, as you call it, might have been a very serious affair to me."
"I only did my duty," said Eben.
"Was it your duty to charge an innocent person with theft?"
"I didn't see who else could have taken the things," said Eben.
"Probably you know as well as anybody," said Herbert, contemptuously.
"What do you mean?" demanded Eben, coloring.
"You know better than I do. How much do I owe you?"
"There is your money," said Herbert, and walked out of the store.
"I hate that boy!" said Eben, scowling at Herbert's retreating figure. "He puts on too many airs, just because a city man's taken him in charity and is paying his expenses. Some time I'll be able to come up with him, I hope."
Herbert was not of an unforgiving nature, but he felt that Eben had wronged him deeply, and saw no reason why he would not repeat the injury if he ever got the chance. He had at least a partial understanding of Eben's mean nature and utter selfishness, and felt that he wished to have nothing to do with him. Ebenezer Graham was very "close," but he was a hard-working man and honest as the world goes. He was tolerably respected in Wayneboro, though not popular, but Eben seemed on the high road to become a rascal.
A week slipped by, and a circular containing the list of prizes drawn was sent to Eben.
He ran his eyes over it in a flutter of excitement. Alas! for his hopes. In the list of lucky numbers the number on his ticket was not included.
"I have drawn a blank! Curse the luck!" he muttered, savagely. "The old man needn't think I am going to stay here in Wayneboro. If he won't give me money to go out West, why, then—"
But he did not say what then.
CHAPTER XIV. A TRIP TO BOSTON.
"To-morrow, Herbert," said George Melville, as they parted for the day, "I shall propose a new excursion to you."
Herbert regarded him inquiringly.
"I want to go to Boston to make a few purchases, but principally to consult my physician."
"I hope you are not feeling any worse, Mr. Melville," said Herbert, with genuine concern, for he had come to feel a regard for his employer, who was always kind and considerate to him.
"No, I am feeling as well as usual; but I wish to consult Dr. Davies about the coming winter—whether he would advise me to spend it in Massachusetts."
"If Mr. Melville goes away, I shall have to look for another place," thought Herbert, soberly. It was hardly likely, he knew, that he would obtain a position so desirable as the one he now filled.
"I hope he will be able to do so, Mr. Melville," he said, earnestly.
"I hope so; but I shall not be surprised if the doctor ordered me away."
"Then you won't want me to come to-morrow?"
"Certainly, unless you object to going to Boston with me."
"Object?" repeated Herbert, eagerly. "I should like nothing better."
In fact, our hero, though a well-grown boy of sixteen, had never been to Boston but three times, and the trip, commonplace as it may seem to my traveled young readers, promised him a large amount of novelty and pleasurable excitement.
"I shall be glad of your company, Herbert. I hardly feel the strength or enterprise to travel alone, even for so trifling a trip as going to Boston."
"At what hour will you go, Mr. Melville?"
"I will take the second train, at nine o'clock. It will afford me time enough, and save my getting up before my usual time."
Herbert would have preferred going by the first train, starting at half-past seven, as it would have given him a longer day in the city, but of course he felt that his employer had decided wisely.
"It will be quite a treat to me, going to Boston," he said. "I have only been there three times in my life."
"You certainly have not been much of a traveler, Herbert," said George Melville, smiling. "However, you are young, and you may see a good deal of the world yet before you die."
"I hope I will. It must be delightful to travel."
"Yes, when you are young and strong," said Melville, thoughtfully. "That makes a great deal of difference in the enjoyment."
Herbert did not fail to put in an appearance at the hotel considerably before it was time to leave for the train. George Melville smiled at his punctuality.
"I wish, Herbert," he said, "that I could look forward with as much pleasure as you feel to our trip to-day."
"I wish so, too, Mr. Melville."
"At any rate, I shall enjoy it better for having a companion."
The tickets were bought, and they took their places in one of the passenger cars.
Just as the train was ready to start, Herbert saw a young man with a ticket in his hand hurrying along the platform.
"Why, there's Eben Graham!" he said, in surprise.
"Is he entering the cars?"
"Yes, he has just got into the car behind us."
"I wonder if he is going to leave Wayneboro for good?"
"Probably he is only going to Boston for the day, perhaps to buy goods."
Herbert thought it doubtful whether Ebenezer Graham would trust his son so far, but did not say so. Eben, on his part, had not seen Herbert on board the train, and was not aware that he was a fellow passenger.
The journey was a tolerably long one—forty miles—and consumed an hour and a half. At last they rolled into the depot, and before the train had fairly stopped the passengers began to crowd toward the doors of the car.
"Let us remain till the crowd has passed out," said George Melville. "It is disagreeable to me to get into the throng, and it saves very little time."
"Very well, sir."
Looking out of the car window, Herbert saw Eben Graham walking swiftly along the platform, and could not forbear wondering what had brought him to the city.
"My doctor's office is on Tremont Street," said Mr. Melville. "I shall go there immediately, and may have to wait some time. It will be tiresome to you, and I shall let you go where you please. You can meet me at the Parker House, in School Street, at two o'clock."
"Very well, sir."
"Do you know where the hotel is?"
"No, but I can find it," answered Herbert, confidently.
"I believe I will also get you to attend to a part of my business for me."
"I shall be very glad to do so," said Herbert, sincerely. It made him feel more important to be transacting business in Boston.
"Here is a check for a hundred and fifty dollars on the Merchants' Bank," continued George Melville. "It is payable to the bearer, and you will have no trouble in getting the money on it. You may present it at the bank, and ask for fives and tens and a few small bills."
"Very well, sir."
Herbert felt rather proud to have so much confidence reposed in him, for to him a hundred and fifty dollars seemed a large sum of money, and he felt that George Melville was a rich man to draw so much at one time.
"Had I better go to the bank at once?" he asked.
"Yes, I think so; of course, I need not caution you to take good care of the money."
"I'll be sure to do that, sir."
They walked together to Tremont Street, and Mr. Melville paused at a doorway opposite the Common.
"My doctor's office is upstairs," he said. "We will part here and meet at the hotel. If you are late, I may go into the dining room; so if you don't see me in the reading room, go to the door of the dining room and look in."
"Very well, sir; but I think I shall be on time."
"The bank is open now, and you can cash the check if you go down there."
Left to himself, Herbert walked slowly along, looking into shop windows and observing with interested attention the people whom he met.
"It must be very pleasant to live in the city," he thought; "there is so much going on all the time."
It is no wonder that country boys are drawn toward the city, and feel that their cup of happiness would be full if they could get a position in some city store. They do not always find the reality equal to their anticipations. The long hours and strict discipline of a city office or mercantile establishment are not much like the freedom they pictured to themselves, and after they have paid their board bill in some shabby boarding house they seldom find much left over, either for amusement or needful expenses. The majority of boys would do better to remain in their country homes, where at least they can live comfortably and at small expense, and take such employment as may fall in their way. They will stand a much better chance of reaching a competence in middle life than if they helped to crowd the ranks of city clerks and salesmen. There is many a hard-working clerk of middle age, living poorly, and with nothing laid by, in the city, who, had he remained in his native village, might have reached a modest independence. It was hardly to be expected, however, that Herbert would feel thus. Upon him the show and glitter of the city shops and streets produced their natural effect, and he walked on buoyantly, seeing three times as much as a city boy would have done.
He turned down School Street, passing the Parker House, where he was to meet Mr. Melville. Just before he reached it he saw Eben Graham emerge from the hotel and walk towards Washington Street. Eben did not look behind him, and therefore did not see Herbert.
"I wonder where he is going?" thought our hero, as he followed a few steps behind Eben.
CHAPTER XV. AN OBLIGING GUIDE.
On Washington Street, not far from Old South Church, is an office for the sale of railroad tickets to western points. It was this office which Eben entered.
"He is going to inquire the price of a ticket to some western city," thought Herbert. "I heard him say one day that he wanted to go West."
Our hero's curiosity was naturally aroused, and he stood at the entrance, where he could not only see but hear what passed within.
"What do you charge for a ticket to Chicago?" he heard Eben ask.
"Twenty-two dollars," was the answer of the young man behind the counter.
"You may give me one," said Eben.
As he spoke he drew from his vest pocket a roll of bills, and began to count off the requisite sum.
Herbert was surprised. He had supposed that Eben was merely making inquiries about the price of tickets. He had not imagined that he was really going.
"Can Mr. Graham have given him money to go?" he asked himself.
"When can I start?" asked Eben, as he received a string of tickets from the clerk.
"At three this afternoon."
Eben seemed well pleased with this reply. He carefully deposited the tickets in an inside vest pocket, and turned to go out of the office. As he emerged from it he caught sight of Herbert, who had not yet started to go. He looked surprised and annoyed.
"Herbert Carr!" he exclaimed. "How came you here?"
Mingled with his surprise there was a certain nervousness of manner, as Herbert thought.
"I came to Boston with Mr. Melville," said Herbert, coldly.
"Oh!" ejaculated Eben, with an air of perceptible relief. "Where is Mr. Melville?"
"He has gone to the office of his physician, on Tremont Street."
"Leaving you to your own devices, eh?"
"Look out you don't get lost!" said Eben, with affected gayety. "I am here on a little business for the old man."
Herbert did not believe this, in view of what he had seen, but he did not think it necessary to say so.
"Good-morning!" said Herbert, in a tone polite but not cordial.
"Good-morning! Oh, by the way, I have just been inquiring the cost of a ticket to St. Louis," said Eben, carelessly.
"Indeed! Do you think of going out there?"
"Yes, if the old man will let me," said Eben.
"Do you prefer St. Louis to Chicago?" asked Herbert, watching the face of Eben attentively.
Eben's face changed, and he looked searchingly at our hero, but could read nothing in his face.
"Oh, decidedly!" he answered, after a slight pause. "I don't think I would care for Chicago."
"And all the while you have a ticket for Chicago in your pocket!" thought Herbert, suspiciously, "Well, that's your own affair entirely, not mine."
"What train do you take back to Wayneboro?" asked Eben, not without anxiety.
"We shall not go before four o'clock."
"I may be on the train with you," said Eben, "though possibly I shall get through in time to take an earlier one."
"He is trying to deceive me," thought Herbert.
"Good-morning," he said, formally, and walked away.
"I wish I hadn't met him," muttered Eben to himself. "He may give the old man a clew. However, I shall be safe out of the way before anything can be done."
Herbert kept on his way, and found the bank without difficulty.
He entered and looked about him. Though unaccustomed to banks, he watched to see where others went to get checks cashed, and presented himself in turn.
"How will you have it?" asked the paying teller.
"Fives and tens, and a few small bills," answered Herbert, promptly.
The teller selected the requisite number of bank bills quickly, and passed them out to Herbert. Our hero counted them, to make sure that they were correct, and then put them away in his inside pocket. It gave him a feeling of responsibility to be carrying about so much money, and he felt that it was incumbent on him to be very careful.
"Where shall I go now?" he asked himself.
He would have liked to go to Charlestown, and ascend Bunker Hill Monument, but did not know how to go. Besides, he feared he would not get back to the Parker House at the time fixed by Mr. Melville. Still, he might be able to do it. He addressed himself to a rather sprucely dressed man of thirty-five whom he met at the door of the bank.
"I beg your pardon, sir, but can you tell me how far it is to Bunker Hill Monument?"
"About a mile and a half," answered the stranger.
"Could I go there and get back to the Parker House before one o'clock."
"Could you?" repeated the man, briskly. "Why, to be sure you could!"
"But I don't know the way."
"You have only to take one of the Charlestown horse cars, and it will land you only a couple of minutes' walk from the monument."
"Can you tell me what time it is, sir?"
"Only a little past eleven. So you have never been to Bunker Hill Monument, my lad?"
"No sir; I live in the country, forty miles away and seldom come to Boston."
"I see, I see," said the stranger, his eyes snapping in a very peculiar way. "Every patriotic young American ought to see the place where Warren fell."
"I should like to if you could tell me where to take the cars."
"Why, certainly I will," said the other, quickly. "In fact—let me see," and he pulled out a silver watch from his vest pocket, "I've a great mind to go over with you myself."
"I shouldn't like to trouble you, sir," said Herbert.
"Oh, it will be no trouble. Business isn't pressing this morning, and I haven't been over for a long time myself. If you don't object to my company, I will accompany you."
"You are very kind," said Herbert. "If you are quite sure that you are not inconveniencing yourself, I shall be very glad to go with you—that is, if you think I can get back to the Parker House by one o'clock."
"I will guarantee that you do," said the stranger, confidently. "My young friend, I am glad to see that you are particular to keep your business engagements. In a varied business experience, I have observed that it is precisely that class who are destined to win the favor of their employer and attain solid success."
"He seems a very sensible man," thought Herbert; "and his advice is certainly good."
"Come this way," said the stranger, crossing Washington Street. "Scollay's Square is close at hand, and there we shall find a Charlestown horse car."
Of course Herbert yielded himself to the guidance of his new friend, and they walked up Court Street together.
"That," said the stranger, pointing out a large, somber building to the left, "is the courthouse. The last time I entered it was to be present at the trial of a young man of my acquaintance who had fallen into evil courses, and, yielding to temptation, had stolen from his employer. It was a sad sight," said the stranger, shaking his head.
"I should think it must have been," said Herbert.
"Oh, why, why will young men yield to the seductions of pleasure?" exclaimed the stranger, feelingly.
"Was he convicted?" asked Herbert.
"Yes, and sentenced to a three years term in the State prison," answered his companion. "It always makes me feel sad when I think of the fate of that young man."
"I should think it would, sir."
"I have mentioned it as a warning to one who is just beginning life," continued the stranger. "But here is our car."
A Charlestown car, with an outside sign, Bunker Hill, in large letters, came by, and the two got on board.
They rode down Cornhill, and presently the stranger pointed out Faneuil Hall.
"Behold the Cradle of Liberty," he said. "Of course, you have heard of Faneuil Hall?"
"Yes, sir," and Herbert gazed with interest at the building of which he had heard so much.
It was but a short ride to Charlestown. They got out at the foot of a steep street, at the head of which the tall, granite column which crowns the summit of Bunker Hill stood like a giant sentinel ever on guard.
CHAPTER XVI. A NEW BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.
Just opposite the monument is a small, one-story structure, where views of the shaft may be purchased and tickets obtained.
"There is a small admission fee," said Herbert's companion.
"How much is it?" asked our hero.
As Herbert thrust his hand into his pocket for the necessary money, his companion said:
"You had better let me pay for both tickets."
Though he said this, he didn't make any motion to do so.
"No, I will pay for both," said Herbert.
"But I really cannot permit you to pay for mine."
And still the speaker made no movement to purchase his ticket.
Herbert settled the matter by laying half a dollar on the desk, and asking for two tickets. He began to see that, in spite of his disclaimer, his guide intended him to do so. On the whole, this didn't please him. He would rather have had his offer frankly accepted.
"I didn't mean to have you pay," said the young man, as they passed through the door admitting them to an inner apartment, from which there was an exit into a small, inclosed yard, through which they were to reach the entrance to a spiral staircase by which the ascent was made.
Herbert did not answer, for he understood that his guide was not telling the truth, and he did not like falsehood or deceit.
They entered the monument and commenced the ascent.
"We have a tiresome ascent before us," said the other.
"How many steps are there?" asked Herbert.
"About three hundred," was the reply.
At different points in the ascent they came to landings where they could catch glimpses of the outward world through long, narrow, perpendicular slits in the sides of the monument.
At last they reached the top.
Herbert's guide looked about him sharply, and seemed disappointed to find a lady and gentleman and child also enjoying the view.
Herbert had never been so high before. Indeed, he had never been in any high building, and he looked about him with a novel sense of enjoyment.
"What a fine view there is here!" he said.
"True," assented his companion. "Let me point out to you the different towns visible to the naked eye."
"I wish you would," said the boy.
So his guide pointed out Cambridge, Chelsea, Malden, the Charles and Mystic Rivers, gleaming in the sunshine, the glittering dome of the Boston State House and other conspicuous objects. Herbert felt that it was worth something to have a companion who could do him this service, and he felt the extra twenty cents he had paid for his companion's ticket was a judicious investment.
He noticed with some surprise that his companion seemed annoyed by the presence of the other party already referred to. He scowled and shrugged his shoulders when he looked at them, and in a low voice, inaudible to those of whom he spoke, he said to Herbert: "Are they going to stay here all day?"
"What does it matter to me if they do?" returned Herbert, in surprise.
Indeed, to him they seemed very pleasant people, and he was especially attracted by the sweet face of the little girl. He wished he had been fortunate enough to possess such a sister.
At last, however, they finished their sightseeing, and prepared to descend. Herbert's companion waited till the sound of their descending steps died away, and then, turning to Herbert, said in a quick, stern tone: "Now give me the money you have in your pocket."
"What do you mean?" he said.
Herbert recoiled, and stared at the speaker in undisguised astonishment.
"I mean just what I say," returned the other. "You have one hundred and fifty dollars in your pocket. You need not deny it, for I saw you draw it from the bank and put it away."
"Are you a thief, then?" demanded Herbert.
"No matter what I am, I must have that money," said the stranger. "I came over with you exclusively to get it, and I mean business."
He made a step towards Herbert, but the boy faced him unflinchingly, and answered resolutely: "I mean business, too. The money is not mine, and I shall not give it up."
"Take care!" said the other, menacingly, "we are alone here. You are a boy and I am a man."
"I know that; but you will have to fight to get the money," said Herbert, without quailing.
He looked to the staircase, but his treacherous guide stood between him and it, and he was practically a prisoner at the top of the monument.
"Don't be a fool!" said the stranger. "You may as well give up the money to me first as last."
"I don't propose to give it up to you at all," said Herbert. "My employer trusted me with it, and I mean to be true to my trust."
"You can tell him that it was taken from you—that you could not help yourself. Now hand it over!"
"Never!" exclaimed Herbert, resolutely.
"We'll see about that," said his companion, seizing the boy and grappling with him.
Herbert was a strong boy for his age, and he accepted the challenge. Though his antagonist was a man, he found that the boy was powerful, and not to be mastered as easily as he anticipated.
"Confound you!" he muttered, "I wish I had a knife!"
Though Herbert made a vigorous resistance, his opponent was his superior in strength, and would ultimately have got the better of him. He had thrown Herbert down, and was trying to thrust his hand into his coat pocket, when a step was heard, and a tall man of Western appearance stepped on the scene.
"Hello!" he said, surveying the two combatants in surprise. "What's all this? Let that boy alone, you skunk, you!"
As he spoke, he seized the man by the collar and jerked him to his feet.
"What does all this mean?" he asked, turning from one to the other.
"This boy has robbed me of one hundred and fifty dollars," said the man, glibly. "I fell in with him in the Boston cars, and he relieved me of a roll of bills which I had drawn from a bank in Boston."
"What have you got to say to this?" asked the Western man, turning to Herbert, who was now on his feet.
"Only this," answered Herbert, "that it is a lie. It was I who drew the money from the Merchants' Bank in Boston. This man saw me cash the check, followed me, and offered to come here with me, when I asked him for directions."
"That's a likely story!" sneered the young man. "My friend here is too sharp to believe it."
"Don't call me your friend!" said the Western man, bluntly. "I'm more than half convinced you're a scamp."
"I don't propose to stay here and be insulted. Let the boy give me my money, and I won't have him arrested."
"Don't be in too much of a hurry, young man! I want to see about this thing. What bank did you draw the money from?"
"From the Merchants' Bank—the boy has got things reversed. He saw me draw it, inveigled himself into my confidence, and picked my pocket."
"Look here—stop right there! Your story doesn't hang together!" said the tall Westerner, holding up his finger. "You said you met this boy in a horse car."
"We came over together in a Charlestown horse car," said the rogue, abashed.
"You've given yourself away. Now make yourself scarce! Scoot!"
The rascal looked in the face of the tall, resolute man from the West, and thought it prudent to obey. He started to descend, but a well-planted kick accelerated his progress, and he fell down several steps, bruising his knees.
"Thank you, sir!" said Herbert, gratefully. "It was lucky you came up just as you did. The rascal had got his hand on the money."
"He is a miserable scamp!" answered Herbert's new friend. "If there'd been a police-man handy, I'd have given him in charge. I've come clear from Wisconsin to see where Warren fell, but I didn't expect to come across such a critter as that on Bunker Hill."
Herbert pointed out to his new friend the objects in view, repeating the information he had so recently acquired. Then, feeling that he could spare no more time, he descended the stairs and jumped on board a horse car bound for Boston.
CHAPTER XVII. AN ACCEPTABLE PRESENT.
As the clock at the Old South Church struck one, Herbert ascended the steps of Parker's Hotel, and walked into the reading room. George Melville was already there.
"You are on time, Herbert," he said, with a smile, as our hero made his appearance.
"Yes, sir; but I began to think I should miss my appointment."
"Where have you been?"
"To Bunker Hill."
"Did you ascend the monument?"
"Yes, sir, and had a fight at the summit."
Mr. Melville looked at Herbert in amazement.
"Had a fight at the top of Bunker Hill Monument?" he ejaculated.
"Yes, sir; let me tell you about it."
When the story was told, Mr. Melville said: "That was certainly a remarkable adventure, Herbert. Still, I am not sorry that it occurred."
It was Herbert's turn to look surprised.
"I will tell you why. It proves to me that you are worthy of my confidence, and can be trusted with the care of money. It has also taught you a lesson, to beware of knaves, no matter how plausible they may be."
"I haven't got over my surprise yet, sir, at discovering the real character of the man who went with me. I am sorry I met him. I don't like to distrust people."
"Nor I. But it is not necessary to distrust everybody. In your journey through the world you will make many agreeable and trustworthy acquaintances in whom it will be safe to confide. It is only necessary to be cautious and not give your confidence too soon."
"Oh, I didn't mention that I met somebody from Wayneboro," said Herbert.
"Was it Eben Graham?"
"I met him myself on Washington Street. Did you speak to him?"
"I suppose he goes back to-night?"
"I don't think he will go back at all, Mr. Melville."
His employer looked at him inquiringly.
"I saw him buy a ticket to Chicago, though he does not know it," continued Herbert. "When he spoke with me he didn't admit it, but spoke of going back by an afternoon train."
"I am afraid he has appropriated some of his father's funds," said Melville. "I doubt if Ebenezer Graham would voluntarily furnish him the means of going West."
"That was just what occurred to me," said Herbert; "but I didn't like to think that Eben would steal."
"Perhaps he has not. We shall be likely to hear when we return. But you must be hungry. We will go in to dinner."
Herbert followed Mr. Melville into the dining room, where a good dinner was ordered, and partaken of. Herbert looked over the bill of fare, but the high prices quite startled him. He was not used to patronizing hotels, and it seemed to him that the price asked for a single dish ought to be enough to pay for a whole dinner for two. He knew about what it cost for a meal at home, and did not dream that it would amount to so much more at a hotel.
When the check was brought Herbert looked at it.
"Two dollars and a half!" he exclaimed.
"It costs an awful amount to live in Boston."
"Oh a dinner can be got much cheaper at most places in Boston," said George Melville, smiling, "but I am used to Parker's, and generally come here."
"I am glad it doesn't cost so much to live in Wayneboro," said Herbert. "We couldn't afford even one meal a day."
"You haven't asked me what the doctor said," remarked Melville, as they left the dining room.
"Excuse me, Mr. Melville. It wasn't from any lack of interest."
"He advises me to go West by the first of October, either to Colorado or Southern California."
Herbert's countenance fell. The first of October would soon come, and his pleasant and profitable engagement with Mr. Melville would close.
"I am sorry," he said, gravely.
"I am not so sorry as I should have been a few weeks ago," said Melville. "Then I should have looked forward to a journey as lonely and monotonous. Now, with a companion, I think I may have a pleasant time."
"Who is going with you, Mr. Melville?" asked Herbert, feeling, it must be confessed, a slight twinge of jealousy.
"I thought perhaps you would be willing to accompany me," said Melville.
"Would you really take me, Mr. Melville?" cried Herbert, joyfully.
"Yes, if you will go."
"I should like nothing better. I have always wanted to travel. It quite takes my breath away to think of going so far away."
"I should hardly venture to go alone," continued George Melville. "I shall need some one to look after the details of the journey, and to look after me if I fall sick. Do you think you would be willing to do that?"
"I hope you won't fall sick, Mr. Melville; but if you do, I will take the best care of you I know how."
"I am sure you will, Herbert, and I would rather have you about me than a man. Indeed, I already begin to think of you as a younger brother."
"Thank you, Mr. Melville," said Herbert, gratefully. "I am glad you do."
"Do you think your mother will object to your leaving home, Herbert?"
"Not with you. She knows I shall be well provided for with you. Can I arrange to send money regularly to mother?" asked the boy. "I shouldn't like to think of her as suffering for want of it."
"Yes, but to guard against emergencies, we can leave her a sum of money before you start."
After dinner Mr. Melville proposed to Herbert to accompany him on a walk up Washington Street, They walked slowly, Herbert using his eyes diligently, for to him the display in the shop windows was novel and attractive.
At length they paused at the door of a large and handsome jewelry store—one of the two finest in Boston.
"I want to go in here, Herbert," said his employer.
"Shall I stay outside?"
"No, come in with me. You may like to look about."
Though Herbert had no idea of the cost of the fine stock with which the store was provided, he saw that it must be valuable, and wondered where purchasers enough could be found to justify keeping so large a supply of watches, chains, rings and the numberless other articles in gold and silver which he saw around him.
"I would like to look at your watches," said Melville to the salesman who came forward to inquire his wishes.
"Gold or silver, sir?"
"This way, if you please."
He led the way to a case where through the glass covering Herbert saw dozens of silver watches of all sizes and grades lying ready for inspection.
"For what price can I get a fair silver watch?" asked Melville.
"Swiss or Waltham?"
"Waltham. I may as well patronize home manufactures."
"Here is a watch I will sell you for fifteen dollars," said the salesman, drawing out a neat-looking watch, of medium size. "It will keep excellent time, and give you good satisfaction."
"Very well; I will buy it on your recommendation. Have you any silver chains?"
One was selected of pretty pattern, and George Melville paid for both.
"How do you like the watch and chain, Herbert?" said his employer, as they left the store.
"They are very pretty, sir."
"I suppose you wonder what I want of two watches," said Melville.
"Perhaps you don't like to take your gold watch with you when you go out West, for fear of thieves."
"No, that is not the reason. If I am so unfortunate as to lose my gold watch, I will buy another. The fact is, I have bought this silver watch and chain for you."
"For me!" exclaimed Herbert, intensely delighted.
"Yes; it will be convenient for you, as well as me, to be provided with a watch. Every traveler needs one. There; put it in your pocket, and see how it looks."
"You are very kind to me, Mr. Melville," said Herbert, gratefully. "You couldn't have bought me anything which I should value more."
When Herbert had arranged the watch and chain to suit him, it must be confessed that it engrossed a large part of his attention, and it was wonderful how often he had occasion to consult it during the first walk after it came into his possession.
CHAPTER XVIII. A THIEF IN TROUBLE.
"Have you ever visited the suburbs of Boston?" asked Melville.
"No," answered Herbert. "I know very little of the city, and nothing of the towns near it."
"Then, as we have time to spare, we will board the next horse car and ride out to Roxbury."
"I should like it very much, Mr. Melville," said Herbert, in a tone of satisfaction. I may remark that Roxbury was at that time a separate municipality, and had not been annexed to Boston.
They did not have to wait long for a car. An open car, of the kind in common use during the pleasant season, drew near, and they secured seats in it. After leaving Dover Street, Washington Street, still then narrow, broadens into a wide avenue, and is called the Neck. It was gay with vehicles of all sorts, and Herbert found much to attract his attention.
"The doctor tells me I ought to be a good deal in the open air," said Melville, "and I thought I would act at once upon his suggestion. It is much pleasanter than taking medicine."
"I should think so," answered Herbert, emphatically.
Arrived at the end of the route, Melville and Herbert remained on the car, and returned at once to the city. When they reached the crowded part of Washington Street a surprise awaited Herbert.
From a small jewelry store they saw a man come out, and walk rapidly away.
"Mr. Melville," said Herbert, in excitement, "do you see that man?"
"Yes. What of him?"
"It is the man who tried to rob me on Bunker Hill Monument."
He had hardly uttered these words when another man darted from the shop, bareheaded, and pursued Herbert's morning acquaintance, crying, "Stop, thief!"
The thief took to his heels, but a policeman was at hand, and seized him by the collar.
"What has this man been doing?" he asked, as the jeweler's clerk came up, panting.
"He has stolen a diamond ring from the counter," answered the clerk. "I think he has a watch besides."
"It's a lie!" said the thief, boldly.
"Search him!" said the clerk, "and you'll find that I have made no mistake."
"Come with me to the station house, and prepare your complaint," said the policeman.
By this time a crowd had gathered, and the thief appealed to them.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I am a reputable citizen of St. Louis, come to Boston to buy goods, and I protest against this outrage. It is either a mistake or a conspiracy, I don't know which."
The thief was well dressed, and some of the bystanders were disposed to put confidence in him. He had not seen Herbert and George Melville, who had left the car and joined the throng, or he might not have spoken so confidently.
"He doesn't look like a thief," said one of the bystanders, a benevolent-looking old gentleman.
"I should say not," said the thief, more boldly. "It's a pretty state of things if a respectable merchant can't enter a store here in Boston without being insulted and charged with theft. If I only had some of my friends or acquaintances here, they would tell you that it is simply ridiculous to make such a charge against me."
"You can explain this at the station house," said the policeman. "It is my duty to take you there."
"Is there no one who knows the gentleman?" said the philanthropist before referred to. "Is there no one to speak up for him?"
Herbert pressed forward, and said, quietly:
"I know something of him; I passed the morning in his company."
The thief turned quickly, but he didn't seem gratified to see Herbert.
"The boy is mistaken," he said, hurriedly; "I never saw him before."
"But I have seen you, sir," retorted our hero. "You saw me draw some money from a bank in State Street, scraped acquaintance with me, and tried to rob me of it on Bunker Hill."
"It's a lie!" said the prisoner, hoarsely.
"Do you wish to make a charge to that effect?" asked the policeman.
"No, sir; I only mentioned what I knew of him to support the charge of this gentleman," indicating the jeweler's clerk.
The old gentleman appeared to lose his interest in the prisoner after Herbert's statement, and he was escorted without further delay to the station house, where a gold watch and the diamond ring were both found on his person. It is scarcely needful to add that he was tried and sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the very city—Charlestown—where he had attempted to rob Herbert.
"It is not always that retribution so quickly overtakes the wrongdoer," said Melville. "St. Louis will hardly be proud of the man who claims her citizenship."
"Dishonesty doesn't seem to pay in his case," said Herbert, thoughtfully.
"It never pays in any case, Herbert," said George Melville, emphatically. "Even if a man could steal enough to live upon, and were sure not to be found out, he would not enjoy his ill-gotten gain, as an honest man enjoys the money he works hard for. But when we add the risk of detection and the severe penalty of imprisonment, it seems a fatal mistake for any man to overstep the bounds of honesty and enroll himself as a criminal."
"I agree with you, Mr. Melville," said Herbert, thoughtfully. "I don't think I shall ever be tempted, but if I am, I will think of this man and his quick detection."
When they reached the depot, a little before four o'clock, George Melville sent Herbert to the ticket office to purchase tickets, while he remained in the waiting room.
"I might as well accustom you to the duties that are likely to devolve upon you," he said, with a smile.
Herbert had purchased the tickets and was turning away, when to his surprise he saw Ebenezer Graham enter the depot, laboring evidently under considerable excitement. He did not see Herbert, so occupied was he with thoughts of an unpleasant nature, till the boy greeted him respectfully.
"Herbert Carr!" he said; "when did you come into Boston?"
"This morning, sir."
"Have you seen anything of my son, Eben, here?" gasped Mr. Graham.
"Yes, sir; he was on the same train, but I did not see him to speak to him till after I reached the city."
"Do you know what he has been doing here?" asked Ebenezer, his face haggard with anxiety.
"I only saw him for five minutes," answered Herbert, reluctant to tell the father what he knew would confirm any suspicion he might entertain.
"Where did you see him?" demanded Ebenezer, quickly.
"At a railroad ticket office not far from the Old South Church."
"Do you know if he bought any ticket?" asked Ebenezer, anxiously.
"Yes," answered Herbert. "I overheard him purchasing a ticket to Chicago."
Ebenezer groaned, and his face seemed more and more wizened and puckered up.
"It is as I thought!" he exclaimed, bitterly. "My own son has robbed me and fled like a thief, as he is."
Herbert was shocked, but not surprised. He didn't like to ask particulars, but Ebenezer volunteered them.
"This morning," he said, "I foolishly gave Eben a hundred dollars, and sent him to Boston to pay for a bill of goods which I recently bought of a wholesale house on Milk Street. If I had only known you were going in, I would have sent it by you."
Herbert felt gratified at this manifestation of confidence, especially as he had so recently been charged with robbing the post office, but did not interrupt Mr. Graham, who continued:
"As soon as Eben was fairly gone, I began to feel sorry I sent him, for he got into extravagant ways when he was in Boston before, and he had been teasing me to give him money enough to go out West with. About noon I discovered that he had taken fifty dollars more than the amount I intrusted to him, and then I couldn't rest till I was on my way to Boston to find out the worst. I went to the house on Milk Street and found they had seen nothing of Eben. Then I knew what had happened. The graceless boy has robbed his father of a hundred and fifty dollars, and is probably on his way West by this time."
"He was to start by the three o'clock train, I think," said Herbert, and gave his reasons for thinking so.
Ebenezer seemed so utterly cast down by this confirmation of his worst suspicions, that Herbert called Mr. Melville, thinking he might be able to say something to comfort him.
CHAPTER XIX. EBENEZER GRAHAM'S GRIEF.
"How much have you lost by your son, Mr. Graham?" asked George Melville.
"Nearly two hundred and fifty dollars," groaned Ebenezer, "counting what I paid in the city to his creditors, it is terrible, terrible!" and he wrung his hands in his bitterness of spirit.
"I am sorry for you," said Melville, "and still more for him."
"Why should you be sorry for him?" demanded Ebenezer, sharply. "He hasn't lost anything."
"Is it nothing to lose his consciousness of integrity, to leave his home knowing that he is a thief?"
"Little he'll care for that!" said Mr. Graham, shrugging his shoulders. "He's laughing in his sleeve, most likely, at the way he has duped and cheated me, his father."
"How old is Eben, Mr. Graham?"
"He will be twenty in November," answered Ebenezer, apparently puzzled by the question.
"Then, as he is so young, let us hope that he may see the error of his ways, and repent."
"That won't bring me back my money," objected Ebenezer, querulously. It was clear that he thought more of the money he had lost than of his son's lack of principle.
"No, it will not give you back your money, but it may give you back a son purified and prepared to take an honorable position in society."
"No, no; he's bad, bad!" said the stricken father. "What did he care for the labor and toil it took to save up that money?"
"I hope the loss of the money will not distress you, Mr. Graham."
"Well, no, not exactly," said Ebenezer, hesitating. "I shall have to take some money from the savings bank to make up what that graceless boy has stolen."
It was clear that Ebenezer Graham would not have to go to the poorhouse in consequence of his losses.
"I can hardly offer you consolation," said George Melville, "but I suspect that you will not be called upon to pay any more money for your son."
"I don't mean to!" said Ebenezer, grimly.
"Going away as he has done, he will find it necessary to support himself, and will hardly have courage to send to you for assistance."
"Let him try it!" said Ebenezer, his eyes snapping.
"He may, therefore, being thrown upon his own resources, be compelled to work hard, and that will probably be the best thing that can happen to him."
"I hope he will! I hope he will!" said the storekeeper. "He may find out after a while that he had an easy time at home, and was better paid than he will be among strangers. I won't pay any more of his debts. I'll publish a notice saying that I have given him his time, and won't pay any more debts of his contracting. He might run into debt enough to ruin me, between now and the time he becomes of age."
George Melville considered that the storekeeper was justified in taking this step, and said so.
While they were on the train, Ebenezer got measurably reconciled to his loss, and his busy brain began to calculate how much money he would save by ceasing to be responsible for Eben's expenses of living and prospective debts. Without this drawback, he knew he would grow richer every year. He knew also that notwithstanding the sum it had just cost him, he would be better off at the end of the year than the beginning, and to a man of his character this was perhaps the best form of consolation that he could have.
Suddenly it occurred to Mr. Graham that he should need a clerk in place of his son.
"Now that Eben has gone, Herbert," he said, "I am ready to take you back."
This was a surprise, for Herbert had not thought of the effect upon his own business prospects.
"I have got a place, thank you, Mr. Graham," he said.
"You don't call trampin' round huntin' and fishin' work, do you?" said Ebenezer.
"It is very agreeable work, sir."
"But it stands to reason that you can't earn much that way. I wouldn't give you twenty-five cents a week for such doings."
"Are you willing to pay me more than Mr. Melville does?" asked Herbert, demurely, smiling to himself.
"How much does he pay you now?" asked Ebenezer, cautiously.
"Six dollars a week."
"Six dollars a week!" repeated the storekeeper, in incredulous amazement. "Sho! you're joking!"
"You can ask Mr. Melville, sir."
Ebenezer regarded George Melville with an inquiring look.
"Yes, I pay Herbert six dollars a week," said he, smiling.
"Well, I never!" ejaculated Ebenezer. "That's the strangest thing I ever heard. How in the name of conscience can a boy earn so much money trampin' round?"
"Perhaps it would not be worth as much to anyone else," said Melville, "but Herbert suits me, and I need cheerful company."
"You ain't goin' to keep him long at that figger, be you, Mr. Melville?" asked Mr. Graham, bluntly.
"I think we shall be together a considerable time, Mr. Graham. If, however, you should be willing to pay Herbert a larger salary, I might feel it only just to release him from his engagement to me."
"Me pay more'n six dollars a week!" gasped Ebenezer. "I ain't quite crazy. Why, it would take about all I get from the post office."
"You wouldn't expect me to take less than I can earn elsewhere, Mr. Graham," said Herbert.
"No-o!" answered the storekeeper, slowly. He was evidently nonplused by the absolute necessity of getting another clerk, and his inability to think of a suitable person.
"If Tom Tripp was with me, I might work him into the business," said Ebenezer, thoughtfully, "but he's bound out to a farmer."
An inspiration came to Herbert. He knew that his mother would be glad to earn something, and there was little else to do in Wayneboro.
"I think," he said, "you might make an arrangement with my mother, to make up and sort the mail, for a time, at least."
"Why, so I could; I didn't think of that," answered Ebenezer, relieved. "Do you think she'd come over to-morrow mornin'?"
"If she can't, I will," said Herbert. "I don't meet Mr. Melville till nine o'clock."
"So do! I'll expect you. I guess I'll come over and see your mother this evenin', and see if I can't come to some arrangement with her."
It may be added that Mr. Graham did as proposed, and Mrs. Carr agreed to render him the assistance he needed for three dollars a week. It required only her mornings, and a couple of hours at the close of the afternoon, and she was very glad to convert so much time into money.
"It makes me feel more independent," she said. "I don't want to feel that you do all the work, Herbert, and maintain the family single-handed."
The same evening Herbert broached the plan of traveling with Mr. Melville. As might have been expected, his mother was at first startled, and disposed to object, but Herbert set before her the advantages, both to himself and the family, and touched upon the young man's need of a companion so skillfully and eloquently that she was at last brought to regard the proposal favorably. She felt that George Melville was one to whom she could safely trust her only boy. Moreover, her own time would be partly occupied, owing to the arrangement she had just made to assist in the post office, so that Herbert carried his point.
The tenth of October arrived, the date which George Melville had fixed upon for his departure. Mrs. Carr had put Herbert's wardrobe in order, and he had bought himself a capacious carpetbag and an umbrella, and looked forward with eagerness to the day on which their journey was to commence. He had long thought and dreamed of the West, its plains and cities, but had never supposed that it would be his privilege to make acquaintance with them, at any rate, until he should have become twice his present age. But the unexpected had happened, and on Monday he and George Melville were to start for Chicago.
CHAPTER XX. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE IN CHICAGO.
In due time our travelers reached Chicago, and put up at the Palmer House. Herbert was much impressed by the elegance of the hotel, its sumptuous furniture, and luxurious table. It must be considered that he was an inexperienced traveler, though had he been otherwise he might be excused for his admiration.
"I have some business in Chicago, and shall remain two or three days," said George Melville.
Herbert was quite reconciled to the delay, and, as his services were not required, employed his time in making himself familiar with the famous Western city. He kept his eyes open, and found something new and interesting at every step. One day, as he was passing through the lower portion of the city, his attention was called to a young man wheeling a barrow of cabbages and other vegetables, a little in advance of him. Of course, there was nothing singular about this, but there seemed something familiar in the figure of the young man. Herbert quickened his step, and soon came up with him.
One glance was enough. Though disguised by a pair of overalls, and without a coat, Herbert recognized the once spruce dry-goods clerk, Eben Graham.
Eben recognized Herbert at the same time. He started, and flushed with shame, not because of the theft of which he had been guilty, but because he was detected in an honest, but plebeian labor.
"Herbert Carr!" he exclaimed, stopping short.
"Yes, Eben; it is I!"
"You find me changed," said Eben, dolefully.
"No, I should recognize you anywhere."
"I don't mean that. I have sunk very low," and he glanced pathetically at the wheelbarrow.
"If you refer to your employment, I don't agree with you. It is an honest business."
"True, but I never dreamed when I stood behind the counter in Boston, and waited on fashionable ladies, that I should ever come to this."
"He seems more ashamed of wheeling vegetables than of stealing," thought Herbert, and he was correct.
"How do you happen to be in this business, Eben?" he asked, with some curiosity.
"I must do it or starve. I was cheated out of my money soon after I came here, and didn't know where to turn."
Eben did not explain that he lost his money in a gambling house. He might have been cheated out of it, but it was his own fault, for venturing into competition with older and more experienced knaves than himself.
"I went for thirty-six hours without food," continued Eben, "when I fell in with a man who kept a vegetable store, and he offered to employ me. I have been with him ever since."
"You were fortunate to find employment," said Herbert.
"Fortunate!" repeated Eben, in a tragic tone. "How much wages do you think I get?"
"I can't guess."
"Five dollars a week, and have to find myself," answered Eben, mournfully. "What would my fashionable friends in Boston say if they could see me?"
"I wouldn't mind what they said as long as you are getting an honest living."
"How do you happen to be out here?" asked Eben.
His story was told in a few words.
"You are always in luck!" said Eben, enviously. "I wish I had your chance. Is Mr. Melville very rich?"
"He is rich; but I don't know how rich."
"Do you think he'd lend me money enough to get home?"
"I don't know."
"Will you ask him?"
"I will tell him that you made the request, Eben," answered Herbert, cautiously. "Have you applied to your father?"
"To the old man? Yes. He hasn't any more heart than a grindstone," said Eben, bitterly. "What do you think he wrote me?"
"He refused, I suppose."
"Here is his letter," said Eben, drawing from his pocket a greasy half sheet of note paper. "See what he has to say to his only son."
This was the letter:
"EBEN GRAHAM: I have received your letter, and am not surprised to hear that you are in trouble. 'As a man sows, so also shall he reap.' A young man who will rob his father of his hard earnings is capable of anything. You have done what you could to ruin me, and deserve what you have got. You want me to send you money to come home, and continue your wicked work—I shall not do it. I wash my hands of you; I have already given notice, through the country paper that I have given you your time, and shall pay no more debts of your contracting.
"I am glad to hear that you are engaged in an honest employment. It is better than I expected. I would not have been surprised if I had heard that you were in jail. My advice to you is to stay where you are and make yourself useful to your employer. He may in time raise your wages. Five years hence, if you have turned over a new leaf and led an honest life, I may give you a place in my store. At present, I would rather leave you where you are.
"What do you say to that? Isn't that rather rough on an only son, eh?" said Eben.
It occurred to Herbert that Eben hardly deserved very liberal treatment from his father, notwithstanding he was an only son.
"Oh, the old man is awfully mean and close-fisted," said Eben. "He cares more for money than for anything else. By the way, how does Melville treat you?"
"Mr. Melville," said Herbert, emphasizing the Mr., "is always kind and considerate."
"Pays you well, eh?"
"He pays me more than I could get anywhere else."
"Pays all your hotel and traveling expenses, eh?"
"And a good salary besides?"
"Herbert," said Eben, suddenly, "I want you to do me a favor."
"What is it?"
"You've always known me, you know. When you was a little chap, and came into the store, I used to give you sticks of candy."
"I don't remember it," answered Herbert, truthfully.
"I did, all the same. You were so young that you don't remember it."
"Well, Eben, what of it?"
"I want you to lend me ten dollars, Herbert, in memory of old times."
Herbert was generously inclined, on ordinary occasions, but did not feel so on this occasion. He felt that Eben was not a deserving object, even had he felt able to make so large a loan. Besides, he could not forget that the young man who now asked a favor had brought a false charge of stealing against him.
"You will have to excuse me, Eben," he answered. "To begin with, I cannot afford to lend so large a sum."
"I would pay you back as soon as I could."
"Perhaps you would," said Herbert, "though I have not much confidence in it. But you seem to forget that you charged me with stealing only a short time since. I wonder how you have the face to ask me to lend you ten dollars, or any sum."
"It was a mistake," muttered Eben, showing some signs of confusion.
"At any rate, I won't say anything more about it while you are in trouble. But you must excuse my declining to lend you."
"Lend me five dollars, then," pleaded Eben.
"What do you want to do with it?"
"To buy lottery tickets. I am almost sure I should win a prize, and then I can pay you five dollars for one."
"I wouldn't lend any money for that purpose to my dearest friend," said Herbert "Buying lottery tickets is about the most foolish investment you could make."
"Then I won't buy any," said Eben. "Lend me the money and I will use it to buy clothes."
"You will have to excuse me," said Herbert, coldly.
"I didn't think you'd be so mean," whined Eben, "to a friend in distress."
"I don't look upon you as a friend, and for very good reasons," retorted Herbert, as he walked away.
Eben looked after him with a scowl of hatred.
"I'd like to humble that boy's pride," he muttered, as he slowly resumed his march.
CHAPTER XXI. COL. WARNER.
When Herbert returned to the hotel he found George Melville in the reading room in conversation with a tall and dignified-looking stranger.
"Is that your brother, Mr. Melville?" asked the latter, as Herbert came forward and spoke to Melville.
"No, Colonel, he is my young friend and confidential clerk, Herbert Carr."
"Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Carr," said the colonel, affably, extending his hand as he spoke.
"This is Col. Warner, Herbert," explained George Melville.
Herbert, who was naturally polite, shook hands with the colonel, and said he was glad to make his acquaintance.
"I have been talking with Mr. Melville," said the colonel. "I am sorry to hear that he is traveling in search of health."
"Yes, sir; I hope he will find his journey beneficial."
"Oh, not a doubt of it! Not a doubt of it! I've been there myself. Do you know, when I was twenty-five, which I take to be about the age of your employer, I thought I should die of consumption?"
"I shouldn't have supposed it, sir," said Herbert, and Melville, too, felt surprised, as he noticed the stalwart proportions of the former consumptive.
"Ha! ha! I dare say not," said the colonel, laughing. "I don't look much like it now, eh?"
"No, you certainly don't, colonel," said Melville. "I am curious to know how you overcame the threatened danger."
"I did what you are doing, sir; I came West."
"But the mere coming West did not cure you, did it?"
"No, sir; it was the life I lived," returned Col. Varner. "I didn't stay in the cities; I went into the wilderness. I lived in a log-cabin. I bought a horse, and rode every day. I kept in the open air, and, after a while, I found my strength returning and my chest expanding, and in a twelvemonth I could afford to laugh at doctors."
"And you have never had a return of the old symptoms?" asked Melville, with interest.
"Never, except four years afterwards, when I went to New York and remained nearly a year. I am now fifty, and rather hale and hearty for my years, eh?"
"Let me advise you to follow my example, Mr. Melville."
"It was my intention when I started West to live very much as you indicated," said Melville. "Now that I have heard your experience, I am confirmed in my resolve."
"Good! I am glad to hear it. When do you leave Chicago?"
"And how far West do you intend to go?"
"I have thought of Colorado."
"Couldn't do better. I know Colorado like a book. In fact, I own some valuable mining property there, up in—ahem! Gilpin County. By the way—I take it you are a rich man—why don't you invest in that way? Perhaps, however, you have it in view?"
"No, I haven't thought of it," answered Melville. "The fact is, I am not anxious to become richer, having enough for all my present needs."
"Just so," said the colonel. "But you might marry."
"Even if I did—"
"You would have money enough," said Col. Warner, finishing the sentence for him. "Well, I am delighted to hear it. I am very well fixed myself—in fact, some of my friends call me, ha! ha!—the nabob. But, as I was saying I am rich enough and to spare, and still—you may be surprised—still I have no objection to making a little more money."
Col. Warner nodded his head vigorously, and watched George Melville to see the effect upon him of this extraordinary statement.
"Very natural, colonel," said Melville. "I believe most people want to be richer. Perhaps if I had vigorous health I might have the same wish. At present my chief wish is to recover my health."
"You'll do it, sir, you'll do it—and in short order, too! Then you can turn your attention to money-making."
"Perhaps so," said Melville, with a smile.
"If not for yourself, for your young friend here," added the colonel. "I take it he is not rich."
"I have my fortune still to make, Col. Warner," said Herbert, smiling.
"The easiest thing in the world out here, my boy!" said the colonel, paternally. "So you start to-morrow?" he inquired, turning to Melville.
"I think of it."
"Egad! I've a great mind to accompany you," said the colonel. "Why shouldn't I? I've got through all my business in Chicago, and I like the pure air of the prairies best."
"We shall be glad of your company, colonel," said Melville, politely.
"Thank you, sir; that decides me. I'll see you again and fix the hour of going, or rather I'll conform myself to your arrangements."
"Very well, colonel."
"What do you think of my new acquaintance, Col. Warner, Herbert?" asked Melville when they were alone.
"He seems to have a very good opinion of himself," answered Herbert.
"Yes, he is very well pleased with himself. He isn't a man exactly to my taste, but he seems a representative Western man. He does not look much like a consumptive?"
"I feel an interest in him on that account," said Melville, seriously. "If at any time I could become as strong and stalwart I would willingly surrender one-half, nay nine-tenths of my fortune. Ill health is a great drag upon a man; it largely curtails his enjoyments, and deprives him of all ambition."
"I don't see why his remedy wouldn't work well in your case, Mr. Melville," said Herbert, earnestly.
"Perhaps it may. At any rate, I feel inclined to try it. I am glad the colonel is going to travel with us, as I shall be able to question him about the details of his cure. He seems a bluff, genial fellow, and though I don't expect to enjoy his companionship much, I hope to derive some benefit from it."
"By the way, Mr. Melville, I met an old acquaintance while I was out walking," said Herbert.
"How did he look—prosperous?"
"Hardly—he was wheeling a barrow of vegetables."
"Did you speak with him?"
"Yes; he wanted to borrow money."
"I am not surprised at that; I thought it time for him to be out of money. Did you lend him?"
"No; I found he wanted money to buy a lottery ticket. I told him I wouldn't lend money to my best friend for that purpose."
"Very sensible in you, Herbert."
"If he had been in distress, I might have let him have a few dollars, notwithstanding he treated me so meanly at Wayneboro, but he seems to be earning a living."
"I presume he doesn't enjoy the business he is in?"
"No; he complains that he has lowered himself by accepting such a place."
"It doesn't occur to him that he lowered himself when he stole money from his father, I suppose."
"It doesn't seem to."
Later in the day Herbert came across Col. Warner in the corridor of the hotel.
"Ha! my young friend!" he said, affably. "I am glad to meet you."
"Thank you, sir."
"And how is your friend?"
"No change since morning," answered Herbert, slightly smiling.
"By the way, Herbert—your name is Herbert, isn't it—may I offer you a cigar?" said Col. Warner.
The colonel opened his cigar-case and extended it to Herbert.
"Thank you, sir, but I don't smoke."
"Don't smoke? That is, you don't smoke cigars. May I offer you a cigarette?"
"I don't smoke at all, colonel."
"Indeed, remarkable! Why, sir, before I was your age I smoked."
"Do you think it good for consumption?" asked Herbert.
"Ha, ha, you have me there! Well, perhaps not. Do you know," said the colonel, changing the conversation, "I feel a great interest in your friend."
"You are very kind."
"'Upon my soul, I do. He is a most interesting young man. Rich, too! I am glad he is rich!"
"He would value health more than money," said Herbert.
"To be sure, to be sure! By the way, you don't know how much property your friend has?"
"No, sir, he never told me," answered Herbert, surprised at the question.
"Keeps such matters close, eh? Now, I don't. I never hesitate to own up to a quarter of a million. Yes, quarter of a million! That's the size of my pile."
"You are fortunate, Col. Warner," said Herbert, sincerely.
"So I am, so I am! Two years hence I shall have half a million, if all goes well. So you won't have a cigar; no? Well, I'll see you later."
"He's a strange man," thought Herbert. "I wonder if his statements can be relied upon." Somehow Herbert doubted it. He was beginning to distrust the colonel.
CHAPTER XXII. A MOUNTAIN STAGE.
We pass over several days, and change the scene. We left Herbert and Melville in the Palmer House in Chicago, surrounded by stately edifices and surging crowds. Now everything is changed. They are in a mountainous district, where a man might ride twenty miles without seeing a house. They are, in fact, within the limits of what was then known as the Territory of Colorado. It is not generally known that Colorado contains over a hundred mountain summits over ten thousand feet above the sea level. It is perhaps on account of the general elevation that it is recommended by physicians as a good health resort for all who are troubled with lung complaints.
At the time of which I speak most of the traveling was done by stage. Now railroads unite the different portions with links of steel, and make traveling less cumbersome and laborious. There was one of the party, however, who did not complain, but rather enjoyed the jolting of the lumbering stage-coach.
Col. Warner was of the party. He professed to feel an extraordinary interest in George Melville, and was anxious to show him the country where he had himself regained his health.
"Lonely, sir!" repeated the colonel, in answer to a remark of George Melville. "Why, sir, it's a populous city compared with what it was in '55, when I was out here. I built myself a cabin in the woods, and once for twelve months I didn't see a white face."
"Were there many Indians, Colonel?" asked Herbert.
"Indians? I should say so. Only twenty miles from my cabin was an Indian village."
"Did they trouble you any?" asked Herbert, curiously.
"Well, they tried to," answered the colonel. "One night as I lay awake I heard stealthy steps outside, and peeping through a crevice between the logs just above the head of my bed—by the way, my bed was the skin of a bear I had myself killed—I could see a string of Utes preparing to besiege me."
"Were you afraid?" asked Herbert, a little mischievously, for he knew pretty well what the colonel would say.
"Afraid!" repeated the colonel, indignantly. "What do you take me for? I have plenty of faults," continued Col. Warner, modestly, "but cowardice isn't one of them. No, sir; I never yet saw the human being, white, black, or red, that I stood in fear of. But, as I was saying, the redskins collected around my cabin, and were preparing to break in the door, when I leveled my revolver and brought down their foremost man. This threw them into confusion. They retreated a little way, then advanced again with a horrible yell, and I gave myself up for lost. But I got in another shot, bringing down another warrior, this time the son of their chief. The same scene was repeated. Well, to make a long story short, I repulsed them at every advance, and finally when but three were left, they concluded that prudence was the better part of valor, and fled, leaving their dead and wounded behind them."
"How many were there of them?" asked Herbert.
"Well, in the morning when I went out I found seven dead redskins, and two others lying at the point of death."
"That was certainly a thrilling adventure, Colonel," said George Melville, smiling.
"Egad, I should say so."
"I confess I don't care to meet with any such."
"Oh, no danger, no danger!" said the colonel, airily. "That is, comparatively speaking. In fact, the chief danger is of a different sort."
"Of the sleigh upsetting and tipping us out into some of the canyons, I suppose you mean?"
"No, I speak of the gentlemen of the road—road agents as they are generally called."
"You mean highwaymen?"
"Is there much danger of meeting them?" asked Melville.
"Well, there's a chance. They are quite in the habit of attacking stage-coaches, and plundering the passengers. Sometimes they make rich hauls."
"That must be rather inconvenient to the passengers." said Melville. "Can't the laws reach these outlaws?"
"They don't seem to. Why, there are men who have been in the business for years, and have never been caught."
"Very true," said a fellow traveler. "There's Jerry Lane, for instance. He has succeeded thus far in eluding the vigilance of the authorities."
"Yes," said the colonel, "I once saw Lane myself. Indeed he did me the honor of relieving me of five hundred dollars."
"Couldn't you help it?" asked Herbert.
"No; he covered me with his revolver, and if I had drawn mine I shouldn't have lived to take aim at him."
"Were you in a stage at the time?"
"No, I was riding on horseback."
"Is this Lane a large man?" asked George Melville.
"Not larger than myself," continued the colonel.
"Where does he live—in some secret haunt in the forest, I suppose?"
"Oh, no, he doesn't confine himself to one place. He travels a good deal. Sometimes he goes to St. Louis. I have heard that he sometimes even visits New York."
"And is he not recognized?"
"No; he looks like anything but an outlaw. If you should see him you might think him a prosperous merchant, or banker."
"That's curious!" said Herbert.
"The fact is," said the colonel, "when you travel by stage-coaches in these solitudes you have to take the chances. Now I carry my money concealed in an inner pocket, where it isn't very likely to be found. Of course I have another wallet, just for show, and I give that up when I have to."
There was a stout, florid gentleman present, who listened to the above conversation with ill-disguised nervousness. He was a New York capitalist, of German birth, going out to inspect a mine in which he proposed purchasing an interest. His name was Conrad Stiefel.
"Good gracious!" said he, "I had no idea a man ran such a risk, or I would have stayed at home. I decidedly object to being robbed."
"Men are robbed in a different way in New York," said George Melville.
"How do you mean, Mr. Melville?"
"By defaulting clerks, absconding cashiers, swindlers of excellent social position."
"Oh, we don't mind those things," said Mr. Stiefel. "We can look out for ourselves. But when a man points at you with a revolver, that is terrible!"
"I hope, my dear sir, you take good care of your money."
"That I do," said Stiefel, complacently. "I carry it in a belt around my waist. That's a good place, hey?"
"I commend your prudence, sir," said the colonel. "You are evidently a wise and judicious man."
"They won't think of looking there, hey?" laughed Stiefel.
"I should say not."
"You may think what you like, Mr. Stiefel," said a tall, thin passenger, who looked like a book peddler, "but I contend that my money is in a safer place than yours."
"Indeed, Mr. Parker, I should like to know where you keep it," said Col. Warner, pleasantly.
"You can't get at it without taking off my stockings," said the tall man, looking about him in a self-satisfied manner.
"Very good, 'pon my soul!" said the colonel. "I really don't know but I shall adopt your hiding place. I am an old traveler, but not too old to adopt new ideas when I meet with good ones."
"I think you would find it to your interest, Colonel," said Parker, looking flattered.
"Well, well," said the colonel, genially, "suppose we change the subject. There isn't much chance of our being called upon to produce our money, or part with it. Still, as I said a while since, it's best to be cautious, and I see that you all are so. I begin to feel hungry, gentlemen. How is it with you?"
"Are we anywhere near the place for supper?" asked Stiefel. "I wish I could step into a good Broadway restaurant; I feel empty."
"Only a mile hence, gentlemen, we shall reach Echo Gulch, where we halt for the night. There's a rude cabin there, where they will provide us with supper and shelter."
This announcement gave general satisfaction. The colonel proved to be right. The stage soon drew up in front of a long one-story building, which bore the pretentious name of the Echo Gulch Hotel.
CHAPTER XXIII. A STARTLING REVELATION.
A stout, black-bearded man stood in front of the hotel to welcome the stage passengers. He took a clay pipe from his lips and nodded a welcome.
"Glad to see you, strangers," he said. "Here, Peter, you black rascal, help the gentlemen with their baggage."
The door was thrown open, and the party filed into a comfortless looking apartment, at one end of which was a rude bar.
One of the passengers, at least, seemed to know the landlord, for Col. Warner advanced to greet him, his face beaming with cordiality.
"How are you, John?" he said. "How does the world use you?"
The landlord growled something inaudible.
"Have a drink, colonel?" was the first audible remark.
"Don't care if I do. It's confounded dry traveling over these mountain roads. Walk up, gentlemen. Col. Warner doesn't drink alone."
With the exception of Herbert and George Melville, the passengers seemed inclined to accept the offer.