"You need not feel alarmed," was the soothing reply. "It was no doubt an accident."
Turning suddenly, he espied Pomp peering from behind a tree, with eyes and mouth wide open. The little contraband essayed a hasty flight; but Mr. Morton, by a masterly flank movement, came upon him, and brought forward the captive kicking and struggling.
"Le' me go!" said Pomp. "I ain't done noffin'!"
"Didn't you fire a gun at this lady?"
"No," said Pomp boldly. "Wish I may be killed ef I did!"
"I know 'twas you—you—you imp!" exclaimed Mrs. Payson, in violent indignation. "I seed you do it. You're the wust boy that ever lived, and you'll be hung jest as sure as I stan' here!"
"How did it happen, Pomp?" asked Mr. Morton quietly.
"It jest shooted itself!" said Pomp, in whom the old lady's words inspired a vague feeling of alarm. "I 'clare to gracious, Mass' Morton, it did!"
"Didn't you have the gun in your hand, Pomp? Where did you get it?"
"I jest borrered it of Mass' Frank, to play sojer a little while," said Pomp reluctantly.
"Does he know that you have got it?"
"I 'clare I done forgot to tell him," said Pomp reluctantly.
"Will you promise never to touch it again?"
"Don't want to!" ejaculated Pomp, adding spitefully, "He kick me over!"
"I'm glad on't," said the old lady emphatically, with a grim air of satisfaction. "That'll l'arn you not to fire it off at your elders ag'in. I've a great mind to box your ears, and sarve you right, too."
Mrs. Payson advanced, to effect her purpose; but Pomp was wary, and, adroitly freeing himself from Mr. Morton's grasp, butted at the old lady with such force that she would have fallen backward but for the timely assistance of Mr. Morton, who sprang to her side. Her bag fell to the ground, and she struggled to regain her lost breath.
"Oh!" groaned the old lady, gasping for breath, "he's mos' knocked the breath out of me. I sha'n't live long a'ter such a shock. I'm achin' all over. Why did you let him do it?"
"He was too quick for me, Mrs. Payson. I hope you feel better."
"I dunno as I shall ever feel any better," said Mrs. Payson gloomily. "If Cynthy Ann only knew how her poor old ma'am had been treated! I dunno as I shall live to get home!"
"Oh, yes, you will," said the young man cheerfully, "and live to see a good many years more. Would you like to have me attend you home?"
"I ain't got strength to go so fur," said Mrs. Payson, who had not given up her plan of taking tea out. "I guess I could go as fur as Mis' Frost's, an' mebbe some on you will tackle up an' carry me back to Cynthy Ann's a'ter tea."
Arrived at the farmhouse, Mrs. Payson indulged in a long detail of grievances; but it was observed that they did not materially affect her appetite at tea.
The offending musket was found by Frank under a tree, where Pomp had dropped it when it went off.
CHAPTER XXVIII. JOHN HAYNES HAS A NARROW ESCAPE
John Haynes found the time hang heavily upon his hand after his withdrawal from the boys' volunteer company. All the boys with whom he had been accustomed to associate belonged to it, and in their interest could talk of nothing else. To him, on the contrary, it was a disagreeable subject. In the pleasant spring days the company came out twice a week, and went through company drill on the Common, under the command of Frank, or Captain Frost, as he was now called.
Had Frank shown himself incompetent, and made himself ridiculous by blunders, it would have afforded John satisfaction. But Frank, thorough in all things, had so carefully prepared himself for his duties that he never made a mistake, and always acquitted himself so creditably and with such entire self-possession, that his praises were in every mouth.
Dick Bumstead, too, manifested an ambition to fill his second lieutenancy, to which, so much to his own surprise, he had been elected, in such a manner as to justify the company in their choice. In this he fully succeeded. He had become quite a different boy from what he was when we first made his acquaintance. He had learned to respect himself, and perceived with great satisfaction that he was generally respected by the boys. He no longer attempted to shirk his work in the shop, and his father now spoke of him with complacency, instead of complaint as formerly.
"Yes," said he one day, "Dick's a good boy. He was always smart, but rather fly-a-way. I couldn't place any dependence upon him once, but it is not so now. I couldn't wish for a better boy. I don't know what has come over him, but I hope it'll last."
Dick happened to overhear his father speaking thus to a neighbor, and he only determined, with a commendable feeling of pride, that the change that had given his father so much pleasure should last. It does a boy good to know that his efforts are appreciated. In this case it had a happy effect upon Dick, who, I am glad to say, kept his resolution.
It has been mentioned that John was the possessor of a boat. Finding one great source of amusement cut off, and being left very much to himself, he fell back upon this, and nearly every pleasant afternoon he might be seen rowing on the river above the dam. He was obliged to confine himself to this part of the river, since, in the part below the dam, the water was too shallow.
There is one great drawback, however, upon the pleasure of owning a rowboat. It is tiresome to row single-handed after a time. So John found it, and, not being overfond of active exertion, he was beginning to get weary of this kind of amusement when all at once a new plan was suggested to him. This was, to rig up a mast and sail, and thus obviate the necessity of rowing.
No sooner had this plan suggested itself than he hastened to put it into execution. His boat was large enough to bear a small mast, so there was no difficulty on that head. He engaged the village carpenter to effect the desired change. He did not choose to consult his father on the subject, fearing that he might make some objection either on score of safety or expense, while he had made up his mind to have his own way.
When it was finished, and the boat with its slender mast and white sail floated gently on the quiet bosom of the stream, John's satisfaction was unbounded.
"You've got a pretty boat," said Mr. Plane, the carpenter. "I suppose you know how to manage it?" he added inquiringly.
"Yes," answered John carelessly, "I've been in a sailboat before to-day."
Mr. Plane's doubts were set at rest by John's confident manner, and he suppressed the caution which he had intended to give him. It made little difference, however, for John was headstrong, and would have been pretty certain to disregard whatever he might say.
It was true that this was not the first time John had been in a sailboat; but if not the first, it was only the second. The first occasion had been three years previous, and at that time he had had nothing to do with the management of the boat—a very important matter. It was in John's nature to be over-confident, and he thought he understood merely from observation exactly how a boat ought to be managed. As we shall see, he found out his mistake.
The first day after his boat was ready John was greatly disappointed that there was no wind. The next day, as if to make up for it, the wind was very strong. Had John possessed a particle of prudence he would have seen that it was no day to venture out in a sailboat. But he was not in the habit of curbing his impatience, and he determined that he would not wait till another day. He declared that it was a mere "capful of wind," and would be all the better for the purpose.
"It's a tip-top wind. Won't it make my boat scud," he said to himself exultantly, as he took his place, and pushed off from shore.
Henry Morton had been out on a walk, and from the summit of a little hill near the river-bank espied John pushing off in his boat.
"He'll be sure to capsize," thought the young man in alarm. "Even if he is used to a sailboat he is very imprudent to put out in such a wind; I will hurry down and save him if I can."
He hurried to the bank of the river, reaching it out of breath.
John was by this time some distance out. The wind had carried him along finely, the boat scudding, as he expressed it. He was congratulating himself on the success of his trial trip, when all at once a flaw struck the boat. Not being a skillful boatman he was wholly unprepared for it, and the boat upset.
Struggling in terror and confusion, John struck out for the shore. But he was not much of a swimmer, and the suddenness of the accident had unnerved him, and deprived him of his self-possession. The current of the river was rapid, and he would inevitably have drowned but for the opportune assistance of Mr. Morton.
The young man had no sooner seen the boat capsize, than he flung off his coat and boots, and, plunging into the river, swam vigorously toward the imperiled boy.
Luckily for John, Mr. Morton was, though of slight frame, muscular, and an admirable swimmer. He reached him just as John's strokes were becoming feebler and feebler; he was about to give up his unequal struggle with the waves.
"Take hold of me," he said. "Have courage, and I will save you."
John seized him with the firm grip of a drowning person, and nearly prevented him from striking out. But Mr. Morton's strength served him in good stead; and, notwithstanding the heavy burden, he succeeded in reaching the bank in safety, though with much exhaustion.
John no sooner reached the bank than he fainted away. The great danger which he had just escaped, added to his own efforts, had proved too much for him.
Mr. Morton, fortunately knew how to act in such emergencies. By the use of the proper remedies, he was fortunately brought to himself, and his preserver offered to accompany him home. John still felt giddy, and was glad to accept Mr. Morton's offer. He knew that his father would be angry with him for having the boat fitted up without his knowledge, especially as he had directed Mr. Plane to charge it to his father's account. Supposing that Squire Haynes approved, the carpenter made no objections to doing so. But even the apprehension of his father's anger was swallowed up by the thought of the great peril from which he had just escaped, and the discomfort of the wet clothes which he had on.
Mr. Morton, too, was completely wet through, with the exception of his coat, and but for John's apparent inability to go home alone, would at once have returned to his boarding-house to exchange his wet clothes for dry ones.
It so happened that Squire Haynes was sitting at a front window, and saw Mr. Morton and his son as they entered the gate and came up the graveled walk. He had never met Mr. Morton, and was surprised now at seeing him in John's company. He had conceived a feeling of dislike to the young man, for which he could not account, while at the same time he felt a strong curiosity to know more of him.
When they came nearer, he perceived the drenched garments, and went to the door himself to admit them.
"What's the matter, John?" he demanded hastily, with a contraction of the eyebrows.
"I'm wet!" said John shortly.
"It is easy to see that. But how came you so wet?"
"I've been in the river," answered John, who did not seem disposed to volunteer any particulars of his adventure.
"How came you there?"
"Your son's boat capsized," explained Mr. Morton; "and, as you will judge from my appearance, I jumped in after him. I should advise him to change his clothing, or he will be likely to take cold."
Squire Haynes looked puzzled.
"I don't see how a large rowboat like his could capsize," he said; "he must have been very careless."
"It was a sailboat," explained John, rather reluctantly.
"A sailboat! Whose?"
"I don't understand at all."
"I had a mast put in, and a sail rigged up, two or three days since," said John, compelled at last to explain.
"Why did you do this without my permission?" demanded the squire angrily.
"Perhaps," said Mr. Morton quietly, "it will be better to postpone inquiries until your son has changed his clothes."
Squire Haynes, though somewhat irritated by this interference, bethought himself that it would be churlish not to thank his son's preserver.
"I am indebted to you, sir," he said, "for your agency in saving the life of this rash boy. I regret that you should have got wet."
"I shall probably experience nothing more than temporary inconvenience."
"You have been some months in the village, I believe, Mr. Morton. I trust you will call at an early day, and enable me to follow up the chance which has made us acquainted."
"I seldom make calls," said Mr. Morton, in a distant tone. "Yet," added he, after a pause, "I may have occasion to accept your invitation some day. Good morning, sir."
"Good morning," returned the squire, looking after him with an expression of perplexity.
"He boards at the Frosts', doesn't he, John?" asked Squire Haynes, turning to his son.
"There's something in his face that seems familiar," mused the squire absently. "He reminds me of somebody, though I can't recall who."
It was not long before the squire's memory was refreshed, and he obtained clearer information respecting the young man, and the errand which had brought him to Rossville. When that information came, it was so far from pleasing that he would willingly have postponed it indefinitely.
CHAPTER XXIX. MR. MORTON'S STORY
The planting-season was over. For a month Frank had worked industriously, in conjunction with Jacob Carter. His father had sent him directions so full and minute, that he was not often obliged to call upon Farmer Maynard for advice. The old farmer proved to be very kind and obliging. Jacob, too, was capable and faithful, so that the farm work went on as well probably as if Mr. Frost had been at home.
One evening toward the middle of June, Frank walked out into the fields with Mr. Morton. The corn and potatoes were looking finely. The garden vegetables were up, and to all appearance doing well. Frank surveyed the scene with a feeling of natural pride.
"Don't you think I would make a successful farmer, Mr. Morton?" he asked.
"Yes, Frank; and more than this, I think you will be likely to succeed in any other vocation you may select."
"I am afraid you're flattering me, Mr. Morton."
"Such is not my intention, Frank, but I like to award praise where I think it due. I have noticed in you a disposition to be faithful to whatever responsibility is imposed upon you, and wherever I see that I feel no hesitation in predicting a successful career."
"Thank you," said Frank, looking very much pleased with the compliment. "I try to be faithful. I feel that father has trusted me more than it is usual to trust boys of my age, and I want to show myself worthy of his confidence."
"You are fortunate in having a father, Frank," said the young man, with a shade of sadness in his voice. "My father died before I was of your age."
"Do you remember him?" inquired Frank, with interest.
"I remember him well. He was always kind to me. I never remember to have received a harsh word from him. It is because he was so kind and indulgent to me that I feel the more incensed against a man who took advantage of his confidence to defraud him, or, rather, me, through him."
"You have never mentioned this before, Mr. Morton."
"No. I have left you all in ignorance of much of my history. This morning, if it will interest you, I propose to take you into my confidence."
The eagerness with which Frank greeted this proposal showed that for him the story would have no lack of interest.
"Let us sit down under this tree," said Henry Morton, pointing to a horse-chestnut, whose dense foliage promised a pleasant shelter from the sun's rays.
They threw themselves upon the grass, and he forthwith commenced his story.
"My father was born in Boston, and, growing up, engaged in mercantile pursuits. He was moderately successful, and finally accumulated fifty thousand dollars. He would not have stopped there, for he was at the time making money rapidly, but his health became precarious, and his physician required him absolutely to give up business. The seeds of consumption, which probably had been lurking for years in his system, had begun to show themselves unmistakably, and required immediate attention.
"By the advice of his physician he sailed for the West India Islands, hoping that the climate might have a beneficial effect upon him. At that time I was twelve years old, and an only child. My mother had died some years before, so that I was left quite alone in the world. I was sent for a time to Virginia, to my mother's brother, who possessed a large plantation and numerous slaves. Here I remained for six months. You will remember that Aunt Chloe recognized me at first sight. You will not be surprised at this when I tell you that she was my uncle's slave, and that as a boy I was indebted to her for many a little favor which she, being employed in the kitchen, was able to render me. As I told you at the time, my real name is not Morton. It will not be long before you understand the reason of my concealment.
"My father had a legal adviser, in whom he reposed a large measure of confidence, though events showed him to be quite unworthy of it. On leaving Boston he divided his property, which had been converted into money, into two equal portions. One part he took with him. The other he committed to the lawyer's charge. So much confidence had he in this man's honor, that he did not even require a receipt. One additional safeguard he had, however. This was the evidence of the lawyer's clerk, who was present on the occasion of the deposit.
"My father went to the West Indies, but the change seemed only to accelerate the progress of his malady. He lingered for a few months and then died. Before his death he wrote two letters, one to my uncle and one to myself. In these he communicated the fact of his having deposited twenty-five thousand dollars with his lawyer. He mentioned incidentally the presence of the lawyer's clerk at the time. I am a little surprised that he should have done it, as not the faintest suspicion of the lawyer's good faith had entered his thoughts.
"On receiving this letter my uncle, on my behalf, took measures to claim this sum, and for this purpose came to Boston. Imagine his surprise and indignation when the lawyer positively denied having received any such deposit and called upon him, to prove it. With great effrontery he declared that it was absurd to suppose that my father would have entrusted him with any such sum without a receipt for it. This certainly looked plausible, and I acknowledge that few except my father, who never trusted without trusting entirely, would have acted so imprudently.
"'Where is the clerk who was in your office at the time?" inquired my uncle.
The lawyer looked somewhat discomposed at this question.
"'Why do you ask?'he inquired abruptly.
"'Because,' was the reply, 'his evidence is very important to us. My brother states that he was present when the deposit was made.'
"'I don't know where he is,' said the lawyer. 'He was too dissipated to remain in my office, and I accordingly discharged him.'
"My uncle suspected that the clerk had been bribed to keep silence, and for additional security sent off to some distant place.
"Nothing could be done. Strong as our suspicions, and absolute as was our conviction of the lawyer's guilt, we had no recourse. But from that time I devoted my life to the exposure of this man. Fortunately I was not without means. The other half of my father's property came to me; and the interest being considerably more than I required for my support, I have devoted the remainder to, prosecuting inquiries respecting the missing clerk. Just before I came to Rossville, I obtained a clue which I have since industriously followed up.
"Last night I received a letter from my agent, stating that he had found the man—that he was in a sad state of destitution, and that he was ready to give his evidence."
"Is the lawyer still living?" inquired Frank.
"What a villain he must be."
"I am afraid he is, Frank."
"Does he still live in Boston?"
"No. After he made sure of his ill-gotten gains, he removed into the country, where he built him a fine house. He has been able to live a life of leisure; but I doubt if he has been as happy as he would have been had he never deviated from the path of rectitude."
"Have you seen him lately?" asked Frank.
"I have seen him many times within the last few months," said the young man, in a significant tone.
Frank jumped to his feet in surprise. "You don't mean——" he said, as a sudden suspicion of the truth dawned upon his mind.
"Yes," said Mr. Morton deliberately, "I do mean that the lawyer who defrauded my father lives in this village. You know him well as Squire Haynes."
"I can hardly believe it," said Frank, unable to conceal his astonishment. "Do you think he knows who you are?"
"I think he has noticed my resemblance to my father. If I had not assumed a different name he would have been sure to detect me. This would have interfered with my plans, as he undoubtedly knew the whereabouts of his old clerk, and would have arranged to remove him, so as to delay his discovery, perhaps indefinitely. Here is the letter I received last night. I will read it to you."
The letter ran as follows:
"I have at length discovered the man of whom I have so long been in search. I found him in Detroit. He had recently removed thither from St. Louis. He is very poor, and, when I found him, was laid up with typhoid fever in a mean lodging-house. I removed him to more comfortable quarters, supplied him with relishing food and good medical assistance. Otherwise I think he would have died. The result is, that he feels deeply grateful to me for having probably saved his life. When I first broached the idea of his giving evidence against his old employer, I found him reluctant to do so—not from any attachment he bore him, but from a fear that he would be held on a criminal charge for concealing a felony. I have undertaken to assure him, on your behalf, that he shall not be punished if he will come forward and give his evidence unhesitatingly. I have finally obtained his promise to, do so.
"We shall leave Detroit day after to-morrow, and proceed to New England by way of New York. Can you meet me in New York on the 18th inst.? You can, in that case, have an interview with this man Travers; and it Will be well to obtain his confession, legally certified, to guard against any vacillation of purpose on his part. I have no apprehension of it, but it is as well to be certain."
This letter was signed by Mr. Morton's agent.
"I was very glad to get that letter, Frank," said his companion. "I don't think I care so much for the money, though that is not to be despised, since it will enable me to do more good than at present I have it in my power to do. But there is one thing I care for still more, and that is, to redeem my father's memory from reproach. In the last letter he ever wrote he made a specific statement, which this lawyer declares to be false. The evidence of his clerk will hurl back the falsehood upon himself."
"How strange it is, Mr. Morton," exclaimed Frank, "that you should have saved the life of a son of the man who has done so much to injure you!"
"Yes, that gives me great satisfaction. I do not wish Squire Haynes any harm, but I am determined that justice shall be done. Otherwise than that, if I can be of any service to him, I shall not refuse."
"I remember now," said Frank, after a moment's pause, "that, on the first Sunday you appeared at church, Squire Haynes stopped me to inquire who you were."
"I am thought to look much as my father did. He undoubtedly saw the resemblance. I have often caught his eyes fixed upon me in perplexity when he did not know that I noticed him. It is fourteen years since my father died. Retribution has been slow, but it has come at last."
"When do you go on to New York?" asked Frank, recalling the agent's request.
"I shall start to-morrow morning. For the present I will ask you to keep what I have said a secret even from your good mother. It is as well not to disturb Squire Haynes in his fancied security until we are ready to overwhelm him with our evidence."
"How long shall you be absent, Mr. Morton?"
"Probably less than a week. I shall merely say that I have gone on business. I trust to your discretion to say nothing more."
"I certainly will not," said Frank. "I am very much obliged to you for having told me first."
The two rose from their grassy seats, and walked slowly back to the farmhouse.
CHAPTER XXX. FRANK CALLS ON SQUIRE HAYNES
The next morning Mr. Morton was a passenger by the early stage for Webbington, where he took the train for Boston. Thence he was to proceed to New York by the steamboat train.
"Good-by, Mr. Morton," said Frank, waving his cap as the stage started. "I hope you'll soon be back."
"I hope so, too; good-by."
Crack went the whip, round went the wheels. The horses started, and the stage rumbled off, swaying this way and that, as if top-heavy.
Frank went slowly back to the house, feeling quite lonely. He had become so accustomed to Mr. Morton's companionship that his departure left a void which he hardly knew how to fill.
As he reflected upon Mr. Morton's story he began to feel an increased uneasiness at the mortgage held by Squire Haynes upon his father's farm. The time was very near at hand—only ten days off—when the mortgage might be foreclosed, and but half the money was in readiness.
Perhaps, however, Squire Haynes had no intention of foreclosing. If so, there was no occasion for apprehension. But about this he felt by no means certain.
He finally determined, without consulting his mother, to make the squire a visit and inquire frankly what he intended to do. The squire's answer would regulate his future proceedings.
It was Frank's rule—and a very good one, too—to do at once whatever needed to be done. He resolved to lose no time in making his call.
"Frank," said his mother, as he entered the house, "I want you to go down to the store some time this forenoon, and get me half a dozen pounds of sugar."
"Very well, mother, I'll go now. I suppose it won't make any difference if I don't come back for an hour or two."
"No, that will be in time."
Mrs. Frost did not ask Frank where he was going. She had perfect faith in him, and felt sure that he would never become involved in anything discreditable.
Frank passed through the village without stopping at the store. He deferred his mother's errand until his return. Passing up the village street, he stopped before the fine house of Squire Haynes. Opening the gate he walked up the graveled path and rang the bell.
A servant-girl came to the door.
"Is Squire Haynes at home?" inquired Frank.
"Yes, but he's eating breakfast."
"Will he be through soon?"
"Shure and I think so."
"Then I will step in and wait for him."
"Who shall I say it is?"
Squire Haynes had just passed his cup for coffee when Bridget entered and reported that Frank Frost was in the drawing-room and would like to see him when he had finished his breakfast.
"Frank Frost!" repeated the squire, arching his eyebrows. "What does he want, I wonder?"
"Shure he didn't say," said Bridget.
"He is captain of the boys' company, John, isn't he?" asked the squire.
"Yes," said John sulkily. "I wish him joy of his office. I wouldn't have anything to do with such a crowd of ragamuffins."
Of course the reader understands that this was "sour grapes" on John's part.
Finishing his breakfast leisurely, Squire Haynes went into the room where Frank was sitting patiently awaiting him.
Frank rose as he entered.
"Good morning, Squire Haynes," he said, politely rising as he spoke.
"Good morning," said the squire coldly. "You are an early visitor."
If this was intended for a rebuff, Frank did not choose to take any notice of it.
"I call on a little matter of business, Squire Haynes," continued Frank.
"Very well," said the squire, seating himself in a luxurious armchair, "I am ready to attend to you."
"I believe you hold a mortgage on our farm."
Squire Haynes started. The thought of Frank's real business had not occurred to him. He had hoped that nothing would have been said in relation to the mortgage until he was at liberty to foreclose, as he wished to take the Frosts unprepared. He now resolved, if possible, to keep Frank in ignorance of his real purpose, that he might not think it necessary to prepare for his attack.
"Yes," said he indifferently; "I hold quite a number of mortgages, and one upon your father's farm among them."
"Isn't the time nearly run out?" asked Frank anxiously.
"I can look if you desire it," said the squire, in the same indifferent tone.
"I should be glad if you would."
"May I ask why you are desirous of ascertaining the precise date?" asked the squire. "Are you intending to pay off the mortgage?"
"No, sir," said Frank. "We are not prepared to do so at present."
Squire Haynes felt relieved. He feared for a moment that Mr. Frost had secured the necessary sum, and that he would be defeated in his wicked purpose.
He drew out a large number of papers, which he rather ostentatiously scattered about the table, and finally came to the mortgage.
"The mortgage comes due on the first of July," he said.
"Will it be convenient for you to renew it, Squire Haynes?" asked Frank anxiously. "Father being absent, it would be inconvenient for us to obtain the amount necessary to cancel it. Of course, I shall be ready to pay the interest promptly."
"Unless I should have sudden occasion for the money," said the squire, "I will let it remain. I don't think you need feel any anxiety on the subject."
With the intention of putting Frank off his guard, Squire Haynes assumed a comparatively gracious tone. This, in the case of any other man, would have completely reassured Frank. But he had a strong distrust of the squire, since the revelation of his character made by his friend Mr. Morton.
"Could you tell me positively?" he asked, still uneasy. "It is only ten days now to the first of July, and that is little enough to raise the money in."
"Don't trouble yourself," said the squire. "I said unless I had sudden occasion for the money, because unforeseen circumstances might arise. But as I have a considerable sum lying at the bank, I don't anticipate anything of the kind."
"I suppose you will give me immediate notice, should it be necessary. We can pay four hundred dollars now. So, if you please, the new mortgage can be made out for half the present amount."
"Very well," said the squire carelessly. "Just as you please as to that. Still, as you have always paid my interest regularly, I consider the investment a good one, and have no objection to the whole remaining."
"Thank you, sir," said Frank, rising to go.
Frank took his hat, and, bowing to the squire, sought the front door. His face wore a perplexed expression. He hardly knew what to think about the interview he had just had.
"Squire Haynes talks fair enough," he soliloquized; "and, perhaps, he means what he says. If it hadn't been for what Mr. Morton told me, I should have confidence in him. But a man who will betray a trust is capable of breaking his word to me. I think I'll look round a little, and see if I can't provide for the worse in case it comes."
Just after Frank left the house, John entered his father's presence.
"What did Frank Frost want of you, father?" he asked.
"He came about the mortgage."
"Did he want to pay it?"
"No, he wants me to renew it."
"Of course you refused."
"Of course I did no such thing. Do you think I am a fool?"
"You don't mean to say that you agreed to renew it?" demanded John, in angry amazement.
Squire Haynes rather enjoyed John's mystification.
"Come," said he, "I'm afraid you'll never make a lawyer if you're not sharper than that comes to. Never reveal your plans to your adversary. That's an important principle. If I had refused, he would have gone to work, and in ten days between now and the first of July, he'd have managed in some way to scrape together the eight hundred dollars. He's got half of it now."
"What did you tell him, then?"
"I put him off by telling him not to trouble himself—that I would not foreclose the mortgage unless I had unexpected occasion for the money."
"Yes, I see," said John, his face brightening at the anticipated disaster to the Frosts. "You'll take care that there shall be some sudden occasion."
"Yes," said the squire complacently. "I'll have a note come due, which I had not thought about, or something of the kind."
"Oh, that'll be bully."
"Don't use such low words, John. I have repeatedly requested you to be more careful about your language. By the way, your teacher told me yesterday that you are not doing as well now as formerly."
"Oh, he's an old muff. Besides, he's got a spite against me. I should do a good deal better at another school."
"We'll see about that. But I suspect he's partly right."
"Well, how can a feller study when he knows the teacher is determined to be down upon him?"
"'Feller!' I am shocked at hearing you use that word. 'Down upon him,' too!"
"Very well; let me go where I won't hear such language spoken."
It would have been well if Squire Haynes had been as much shocked by bad actions as by low language.
This little disagreement over, they began again to anticipate with pleasure the effect of the squire's premeditated blow upon the Frosts.
"We'll come up with 'em?" said John, with inward exultation.
Meanwhile, though the squire was entirely unconscious of it, there was a sword hanging over his own head.
CHAPTER XXXI. SQUIRE HAYNES SPRINGS HIS TRAP
As intimated in the last chapter, Frank determined to see if he could not raise the money necessary to pay off the mortgage in case it should be necessary to do so.
Farmer Maynard was a man in very good circumstances. He owned an excellent farm, which yielded more than enough to support his family. Probably he had one or two thousand dollars laid aside.
"I think he will help me," Frank said to himself, "I'll go to him."
He went to the house, and was directed to the barn. There he found the farmer engaged in mending a hoe-handle, which had been broken, by splicing it.
He unfolded his business. The farmer listened attentively to his statement.
"You say the squire as much as told you that he would renew the mortgage?"
"Well, I wouldn't trouble myself then; I've no doubt he'll do it."
"He said, unless he should have some sudden occasion for the money."
"All right. He is a prudent man, and don't want to bind himself. That is all. You know the most unlikely things may happen; but I don't believe the squire'll want the money. He's got plenty in the bank."
"But if he should?"
"Then he'll wait, or take part. I suppose you can pay part."
"Then I guess there won't be any chance of anything going wrong."
"If there should," persisted Frank, "could you lend us four hundred dollars to make up the amount?"
"I'd do it in a minute, Frank, but I hain't got the money by me. What money I have got besides the farm is lent out in notes. Only last week I let my brother-in-law have five hundred dollars, and that leaves me pretty short."
"Perhaps somebody else will advance the money," said Frank, feeling a little discouraged at the result of his first application.
"Yes, most likely. But I guess you won't need any assistance. I look upon it as certain that the mortgage will be renewed. Next fall I shall have the money, and if the squire wants to dispose of the mortgage, I shall be ready to take it off his hands."
Frank tried to feel that he was foolish in apprehending trouble from Squire Haynes, but he found it impossible to rid himself of a vague feeling of uneasiness.
He made application to another farmer—an intimate friend of his father's—but he had just purchased and paid for a five-acre lot adjoining his farm, and that had stripped him of money. He, too, bade Frank lay aside all anxiety, and assured him that his fears were groundless.
With this Frank had to be content.
"Perhaps I am foolish," he said to himself. "I'll try to think no more about it."
He accordingly returned to his usual work, and, not wishing to trouble his mother to no purpose, resolved not to impart his fears to her. Another ground of relief suggested itself to him. Mr. Morton would probably be back on the 27th of June. Such, at least, was his anticipation when he went away. There was reason to believe that he would be both ready and willing to take up the mortgage, if needful. This thought brought back Frank's cheerfulness.
It was somewhat dashed by the following letter which he received a day or two later from his absent friend. It was dated New York, June 25, 1863. As will appear from its tenor, it prepared Frank for a further delay in Mr. Morton's arrival.
"DEAR FRANK: I shall not be with you quite as soon as I intended. I hope, however, to return a day or two afterward at latest. My business is going on well, and I am assured of final success. Will you ask your mother if she can accommodate an acquaintance of mine for a day or two? I shall bring him with me from New York, and shall feel indebted for the accommodation.
"Your true friend,
Frank understood at once that the acquaintance referred to must be the clerk, whose evidence was so important to Mr. Morton's case. Being enjoined to secrecy, however, he, of course, felt that he was not at liberty to mention this.
One day succeeded another until at length the morning of the thirtieth of June dawned. Mr. Morton had not yet arrived; but, on the other hand, nothing had been heard from Squire Haynes.
Frank began to breathe more freely. He persuaded himself that he had been foolishly apprehensive. "The squire means to renew the mortgage," he said to himself hopefully.
He had a talk with his mother, and she agreed that it would be well to pay the four hundred dollars they could spare, and have a new mortgage made out for the balance. Frank accordingly rode over to Brandon in the forenoon, and withdrew from the bank the entire sum there deposited to his father's credit. This, with money which had been received from Mr. Morton in payment of his board, made up the requisite amount.
About four o'clock in the afternoon, as Mrs. Frost was sewing at a front window, she exclaimed to Frank, who was making a kite for his little brother Charlie, "Frank, there's Squire Haynes coming up the road."
Frank's heart gave an anxious bound.
"Is he coming here?" he asked, with anxiety.
"Yes," said Mrs. Frost, after a moment's pause. Frank turned pale with apprehension.
A moment afterward the huge knocker was heard to sound, and Mrs. Frost, putting down her work, smoothed her apron and went to the door.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Frost," said the squire, lifting his hat.
"Good afternoon, Squire Haynes. Won't you walk in?"
"Thank you; I will intrude for a few minutes. How do you do?" he said, nodding to Frank as he entered.
"Pretty well, thank you, sir," said Frank nervously.
The squire, knowing the odium which would attach to the course he had settled upon, resolved to show the utmost politeness to the family he was about to injure, and justify his action by the plea of necessity.
"Take a seat, Squire Haynes," said Mrs. Frost "You'll find this rocking-chair more comfortable.'
"I am very well seated, thank you. I cannot stop long. I have merely called on a matter of business."
"About the mortgage?" interrupted Frank, who could keep silence no longer.
"Precisely so. I regret to say that I have urgent occasion for the money, and shall be unable to renew it."
"We have got four hundred dollars," said Mrs. Frost, "which we are intending to pay."
"I am sorry to say that this will not answer my purpose."
"Why did you not let us know before?" asked Frank abruptly.
"Frank!" said his mother reprovingly.
"It was only this morning that the necessity arose. I have a note due which must be paid."
"We are not provided with the money, Squire Haynes," said Mrs. Frost. "if, however, you will wait a few days, we can probably raise it among our friends."
"I regret to say that this will not do," said the squire, "I would gladly postpone the matter. The investment has been satisfactory to me, but necessity knows no law."
Frank was about to burst out with some indignant exclamation, but his mother, checking him, said: "I think there is little chance of our being able to pay you to-morrow. May I inquire what course you propose to take?"
"It will be my painful duty to foreclose the mortgage."
"Squire Haynes," said Frank boldly, "haven't you intended to foreclose the mortgage all along? Hadn't you decided about it when I called upon you ten days ago?"
"What do you mean by your impertinence, sir?" demanded the squire, giving vent to his anger.
"Just what I say. I believe you bear a grudge against my father, and only put me off the other day in order to prevent my being able to meet your demands to-morrow. What do you suppose we can do in less than twenty-four hours?"
"Madam!" said the squire, purple with rage, "do you permit your son to insult me in this manner?"
"I leave it to your conscience, Squire Haynes, whether his charges are not deserved. I do not like to think ill of any man, but your course is very suspicious."
"Madam," said Squire Haynes, now thoroughly enraged, "you are a woman, and can say what you please; but as for this young rascal, I'll beat him within an inch of his life if I ever catch him out of your presence."
"He is under the protection of the laws," said Mrs. Frost composedly, "which you, being a lawyer, ought to understand."
"I'll have no mercy on you. I'll sell you up root and branch," said Squire Haynes, trembling with passion, and smiting the floor with his cane.
"At all events the house is ours to-day," returned Mrs. Frost, with dignity, "and I must request you to leave us in quiet possession of it."
The squire left the house in undignified haste, muttering threats as he went.
"Good, mother!" exclaimed Frank admiringly. "You turned him out capitally. But," he added, an expression of dismay stealing over his face, "what shall we do?"
"We must try to obtain a loan," said Mrs. Frost, "I will go and see Mr. Sanger, while you go to Mr. Perry. Possibly they may help us. There is no time to be lost."
An hour afterward Frank and his mother returned, both disappointed. Mr. Sanger and Mr. Perry both had the will to help but not the ability. There seemed no hope left save in Mr. Morton. At six o'clock the stage rolled up to the gate.
"Thank Heaven! Mr. Morton has come!" exclaimed Frank eagerly.
Mr. Morton got out of the stage, and with him a feeble old man, or such he seemed, whom the young man assisted to alight. They came up the gravel walk together.
"How do you do, Frank?" he said, with a cheerful smile.
"We are in trouble," said Frank. "Squire Haynes is going to foreclose the mortgage to-morrow."
"Never mind!" said Mr. Morton. "We will be ready for him. He can't do either of us any more mischief, Frank. His race is about run."
A heavy weight seemed lifted from Frank's heart. For the rest of the day he was in wild spirits. He asked no questions of Mr. Morton. He felt a firm confidence that all would turn out for the best.
CHAPTER XXXII. TURNING THE TABLES
The next morning Mr. Morton made inquiries of Frank respecting the mortgage. Frank explained that a loan of four hundred dollars would enable him to cancel it.
"That is very easily arranged, then," said Henry Morton.
He opened his pocketbook and drew out four crisp new United States notes, of one hundred dollars each.
"There, Frank," said he; "that will loosen the hold Squire Haynes has upon you. I fancy he will find it a little more difficult to extricate himself from my grasp."
"How can I ever thank you, Mr. Morton?" said Frank, with emotion.
"It gives me great pleasure to have it in my power to be of service to you, Frank," said his friend kindly.
"We will have a mortgage made out to you," continued Frank.
"Not without my consent, I hope," said Mr. Morton, smiling.
Frank looked puzzled.
"No, Frank," resumed Mr. Morton, "I don't care for any security. You may give me a simple acknowledgment of indebtedness, and then pay me at your leisure."
Frank felt with Justice that Mr. Morton was acting very generously, and he was more than ever drawn to him.
So passed the earlier hours of the forenoon.
About eleven o'clock Squire Haynes was observed approaching the house. His step was firm and elastic, as if he rejoiced in the errand he was upon. Again he lifted the knocker, and sounded a noisy summons. It was in reality a summons to surrender.
The door was opened again by Mrs. Frost, who invited the squire to enter. He did so, wondering at her apparent composure.
"They can't have raised the money," thought he apprehensively. "No, I am sure the notice was too short."
Frank was in the room, but Squire Haynes did not deign to notice him, nor did Frank choose to make advances. Mrs. Frost spoke upon indifferent subjects, being determined to force Squire Haynes to broach himself the business that had brought him to the farm.
Finally, clearing his throat, he said: "Well, madam, are you prepared to cancel the mortgage which I hold upon your husband's farm?"
"I hope," said Mrs. Frost, "you will give us time. It is hardly possible to obtain so large a sum in twenty-four hours."
"They haven't got it," thought the squire exultingly.
"As to that," he said aloud, "you've had several years to get ready in."
"Have you no consideration? Remember my husband's absence, and I am unacquainted with business."
"I have already told you," said the squire hastily, "that I require the money. I have a note to pay, and——"
"Can you give us a week?"
"No, I must have the money at once."
"And if we cannot pay?"
"I must foreclose."
"Will that give you the money any sooner? I suppose you would have to advertise the farm for sale before you could realize anything, and I hardly think that car be accomplished sooner than a week hence."
"The delay is only a subterfuge on your part," said the squire hotly. "You would be no better prepared at the end of a week than you are now."
"No, perhaps not," said Mrs. Frost quietly.
"And yet you ask me to wait," said the squire indignantly. "Once for all, let me tell you that all entreaties are vain. My mind is made up to foreclose, and foreclose I will."
"Don't be too sure of that," interrupted Frank, with a triumphant smile.
"Ha, young impudence!" exclaimed the squire, wheeling round. "Who's to prevent me, I should like to know?"
"I am," said Frank boldly.
The squire fingered his cane nervously. He was very strongly tempted to lay it on our hero's back. But he reflected that the power was in his hands, and that he was sure of his revenge.
"You won't gain anything by your impudence," he said loftily. "I might have got you a place, out of pity to your mother, if you had behaved differently. I need a boy to do odd jobs about the house, and I might have offered the place to you."
"Thank you for your kind intentions," said Frank, "but I fear the care of this farm will prevent my accepting your tempting offer."
"The care of the farm!" repeated the squire angrily. "Do you think I will delegate it to you?"
"I don't see what you have to do about it," said Frank.
"Then you'll find out," roared the squire. "I shall take immediate possession, and require you to leave at once."
"Then I suppose we had better pay the mortgage, mother," said Frank.
"Pay the mortgage! You can't do it," said the squire exultingly.
"Have you the document with you?" inquired Mrs. Frost.
"Name the amount due on it."
"With interest eight hundred and twenty-four dollars."
"Frank, call in Mr. Morton as a witness."
Mr. Morton entered.
"Now, Frank, you may count out the money."
"What!" stammered the squire, in dismay, "can you pay it."
"Why didn't you tell me so in the first place?" demanded Squire Haynes, his wrath excited by his bitter disappointment.
"I wished to ascertain whether your course was dictated by necessity or a desire to annoy and injure us. I can have no further doubt about it."
There was no help for it. Squire Haynes was compelled to release his hold upon the Frost Farm, and pocket his money. He had never been so sorry to receive money before.
This business over, he was about to beat a hurried retreat, when he was suddenly arrested by a question from Henry Morton.
"Can you spare me a few minutes, Squire Haynes?"
"I am in haste, sir."
"My business is important, and has already been too long delayed."
"Too long delayed?"
"Yes, it has waited twelve years."
"I don't understand you, sir," said the squire.
"Perhaps I can assist you. You know me as Henry Morton. That is not my real name."
"An alias!" sneered the squire in a significant tone.
"Yes, I had my reasons," returned the young man, unmoved.
"I have no doubt of it."
Henry Morton smiled, but did not otherwise notice the unpleasant imputation.
"My real name is Richard Waring."
Squire Haynes started violently and scrutinized the young man closely through his spectacles. His vague suspicions were confirmed.
"Do you wish to know my business with you?"
The squire muttered something inaudible.
"I demand the restitution of the large sum of money entrusted to you by my father, just before his departure to the West Indies—a sum of which you have been the wrongful possessor for twelve years."
"Do you mean to insult me?" exclaimed the squire, bold in the assurance that the sole evidence of his fraud was undiscovered.
"Unless you comply with my demand I shall proceed against you legally, and you are enough of a lawyer to understand the punishment meted out to that description of felony."
"Pooh, pooh! Your threats won't avail you," said the squire contemptuously. "Your plan is a very clumsy one. Let me suggest to you, young man, that threats for the purpose of extorting money are actionable."
"Do you doubt my identity?"
"You may very probably be the person you claim to be, but that won't save you."
"Very well. You have conceded one point."
He walked quietly to the door of the adjoining room, opened it, and in a distinct voice called "James Travers."
At the sound of this name Squire Haynes sank into a chair, ashy pale.
A man, not over forty, but with seamed face, hair nearly white, and a form evidently broken with ill health, slowly entered.
Squire Haynes beheld him with dismay.
"You see before you, Squire Haynes, a man whose silence has been your safeguard for the last twelve years. His lips are now unsealed. James Travers, tell us what you know of the trust reposed in this man by my father."
"No, no," said the squire hurriedly. "It—it is enough. I will make restitution."
"You have done wisely," said Richard Waring. (We must give him his true name.) "When will you be ready to meet me upon this business?"
"To-morrow," muttered the squire.
He left the house with the air of one who has been crushed by a sudden blow.
The pride of the haughty had been laid low, and retribution, long deferred, had come at last.
Numerous and hearty were the congratulations which Mr. Morton—I mean Mr. Waring—received upon his new accession of property.
"I do not care so much for that," he said, "but my father's word has been vindicated. My mind is now at peace."
There was more than one happy heart at the farm that night. Mr. Waring had accomplished the great object of his life; and as for Frank and his mother, they felt that the black cloud which had menaced their happiness had been removed, and henceforth there seemed prosperous days in store. To cap the climax of their happiness, the afternoon mail brought a letter from Mr. Frost, in which he imparted the intelligence that he had been promoted to a second lieutenancy.
"Mother," said Frank, "you must be very dignified now, You are an officer's wife."
CHAPTER XXXIII. CONCLUSION
The restitution which Squire Haynes was compelled to make stripped him of more than half his property. His mortification and chagrin was so great that he determined to remove from Rossville. He gave no intimation where he was going, but it is understood that he is now living in the vicinity of Philadelphia, in a much more modest way than at Rossville.
To anticipate matters a little, it may be said that John was recently examined for college, but failed so signally that he will not again make the attempt. He has shown a disposition to be extravagant, which, unless curbed, will help him run through his father's diminished property at a rapid rate whenever it shall come into his possession.
The squire's handsome house in Rossville was purchased by Henry Morton—I must still be allowed to call him thus, though not his real name. He has not yet taken up his residence there, but there is reason to believe that ere long there will be a Mrs. Morton to keep him company therein.
Not long since, as he and Frank lay stretched out beneath a thick-branching oak in the front yard at the farm, Mr. Morton turned to our hero and said, "Are you meaning to go to college when your father comes home, Frank?"
"I have always looked forward to it," he said, "but lately I have been thinking that I shall have to give up the idea."
"Because it is so expensive that my father cannot, in justice to his other children, support me through a four years' course. Besides, you know, Mr. Morton, we are four hundred dollars in your debt."
"Should you like very much to go to college, Frank?"
"Better than anything else in the world."
"Then you shall go."
Frank looked up in surprise.
"Don't you understand me?" said Mr. Morton.
"I mean that I will defray your expenses through college."
Frank could hardly believe his ears.
"You would spend so much money on me!" he exclaimed incredulously. "Why, it will cost a thousand dollars."
"Very well, I can afford it," said Mr. Morton. "But perhaps you object to the plan."
"How good you are to me!" said Frank, impulsively seizing his friend's hand. "What have I done to deserve so much kindness?"
"You have done your duty, Frank, at the sacrifice of your inclinations. I think you ought to be rewarded. God has bestowed upon me more than I need. I think he intends that I shall become his almoner. If you desire to express your gratitude, you can best do it by improving the advantages which will be opened to you."
Frank hastened to his mother to communicate his brilliant prospects. Her joy was scarcely less than his.
"Do not forget, Frank," she said, "who it is that has raised up this friend for you. Give Him the thanks."
There was another whose heart was gladdened when this welcome news reached him in his tent beside the Rappahannock. He felt that while he was doing his duty in the field, God was taking better care of his family than he could have done if he remained at home.
Before closing this chronicle I must satisfy the curiosity of my readers upon a few points in which they may feel interested.
The Rossville Guards are still in existence, and Frank is still their captain. They have already done escort duty on several occasions, and once they visited Boston, and marched up State Street with a precision of step which would have done no discredit to veteran soldiers.
Dick Bumstead's reformation proved to be a permanent one. He is Frank's most intimate friend, and with his assistance is laboring to remedy the defects of his early education. He has plenty of ability, and, now that he has turned over a new leaf, I have no hesitation in predicting for him a useful and honorable career.
Old Mrs. Payson has left Rossville, much to the delight of her grandson Sam, who never could get along with his grandmother. She still wears for best the "bunnit" presented her by Cynthy Ann, which, notwithstanding its mishap, seems likely to last her to the end of her natural life. She still has a weakness for hot gingerbread and mince pie, and, though she is turned of seventy, would walk a mile any afternoon with such an inducement.
Should any of my readers at any time visit the small town of Sparta, and encounter in the street a little old lady dressed in a brown cloak and hood, and firmly grasping in her right hand a faded blue cotton umbrella, they may feel quite certain that they are in the presence of Mrs. Mehitabel Payson, relict of Jeremiah Payson, deceased.
Little Pomp has improved very much both in his studies and his behavior. He now attends school regularly, and is quite as far advanced as most boys of his age. Though he is not entirely cured of his mischievous propensities, he behaves "pretty well, considering," and is a great deal of company to old Chloe, to whom he reads stories in books lent him by Frank and others. Chloe is amazingly proud of Pomp, whom she regards as a perfect prodigy of talent.
"Lor' bress you, missus," she remarked to Mrs. Frost one day, "he reads jest as fast as I can talk. He's an awful smart boy, dat Pomp."
"Why don't you let him teach you to read, Chloe?"
"Oh, Lor', missus, I couldn't learn, nohow. I ain't got no gumption. I don't know noffin'."
"Why couldn't you learn as well as Pomp?"
"Dat ar boy's a gen'us, missus. His fader was a mighty smart nigger, and Pomp's took arter him."
Chloe's conviction of her own inferiority and Pomp's superior ability seemed so rooted that Mrs. Frost finally gave up her persuasions. Meanwhile, as Chloe is in good health and has abundance of work, she has no difficulty in earning a comfortable subsistence for herself and Pomp. As soon as Pomp is old enough, Frank will employ him upon the farm.
While I am writing these lines intelligence has just been received from Frank's substitute at the seat of war. He has just been promoted to a captaincy. In communicating this he adds: "You may tell Frank that I am now his equal in rank, though his commission bears an earlier date. I suppose, therefore, I must content myself with being Captain Frost, Jr. I shall be very glad when the necessities of the country will permit me to lay aside the insignia of rank and, returning to Rossville, subside into plain Henry Frost again. If you ask me when this is to be, I can only say that it depends on the length of our struggle. I am enlisted for the war, and I mean to see it through! Till that time Frank must content himself with acting as my substitute at home. I am so well pleased with his management of the farm that I am convinced it is doing as well as if I were at home to superintend it in person. Express to Mr. Waring my gratitude for the generous proposal he has made to Frank. I feel that words are inadequate to express the extent of our obligations to him."
Some years have passed since the above letter was written. The war is happily over, and Captain Frost has returned home with an honorable record of service. Released from duty at home, Frank has exchanged the farm for the college hall, and he is now approaching graduation, one of the foremost scholars in his class. He bids fair to carry out the promise of his boyhood, and in the more varied and prolonged campaign which manhood opens before him we have reason to believe that he will display equal fidelity and gain an equal success.