"Wasn't it found in his pants' pocket?" queried Jim.
"Yes, but why should he take five dollars out of the wallet?"
"I don't know."
"It doesn't look likely that he would!" said Socrates, eying Jim keenly.
"Then it may have been Ben Platt or Wilkins," said Jim, with a bright idea.
"So it might," said the principal, with a feeling of relief.
"They said they were in the room—at any rate, Platt said so—at the time it was concealed, only he made a mistake and took Roscoe for me."
"There is something in that, James. It may be as you suggest."
"They are both sneaks," said Jim, who designated all his enemies by that name. "They'd just as lieve do it as not. I never liked them."
"I must look into this matter. It's clear that some one has got this money, and whoever has it has got possession of it dishonestly."
"To be sure," answered Jim, with unblushing assurance. "If I were you I would find out who did it, that is, if you don't think Roscoe did it."
"No, I don't think Roscoe did it, now. You may tell Platt and Wilkins that I wish to see them."
Jim could not have been assigned a more pleasing duty. He hated the two boys quite as much as he did Hector, and he was glad to feel that they were likely to get into hot water.
He looked about for some time before he found the two boys. At length he espied them returning from a walk.
"Here, you two!" he called out, in a voice ef authority. "You're wanted!"
"Who wants us?" asked Ben Platt.
"My uncle wants you," answered Jim, with malicious satisfaction. "You'd better go and see him right off, too. You won't find it a trifling matter, either."
"Probably Jim has been hatchng some mischief," said Wilkins. "He owes us a grudge. We'll go and see what it is."
CHAPTER XXIV. THE YOUNG DETECTIVES.
When Mr. Smith had made the two boys' understand that he suspected them of purloining the missing five-dollar bill, they were naturally very indignant.
"Mr. Smith," said Ben Platt, in a spirited tone, "no one ever suspected me of dishonesty before."
"Nor me," said Wilkins.
"That's neither here nor there," said the principal, dogmatically. "It stands to reason that some one took the money. Money doesn't generally walk off itself," he added, with a sneer.
"I don't dispute that," said Ben; "but that does not prove that Wilkins or I had anything to do with it."
"You were in the room with the money for half an hour, according to your own confession," said Socrates.
"Yes, I was."
"And part of that time Wilkins was also present."
"Yes, sir," assented Wilkins.
"I am no lawyer," said the principal, triumphantly, "but that seems to me a pretty good case of circumstantial evidence."
"You seem to forget, sir, that there is another person who had an excellent chance to take the money," said Ben Platt.
"You mean Hector Roscoe? That is true. It lies between you three."
"No, Mr. Smith, I do not mean Hector Roscoe. I have as much confidence in Roscoe as myself."
"So have I," sneered Socrates.
"And I know he would not take any money that did not belong to him. I mean a very different person—your nephew, James Smith."
Socrates Smith frowned with anger. "There seems to be a conspiracy against my unfortunate nephew," he said. "I don't believe a word of your mean insinuations, and I am not deceived by your attempt to throw your own criminality upon him. It will not injure him in my eyes. Moreover, I shall be able to trace back the theft to the wrongdoer. The missing bill was marked with a cross upon the back, and should either of you attempt to pass it, your guilt will be made manifest. I advise you to restore it to me while there is yet time."
"The bill was marked?" asked Wilkins, eagerly.
"Then, sir, you may have a chance to find out who took it."
"The discovery might not please you," said Socrates, with a sneer.
"It would give me the greatest pleasure, Mr. Smith. If I can in any way help you discover the missing note, I will do so."
"You can go," said Socrates, abruptly.
When the two boys had left the presence of the principal, Ben Platt, said, "What are you going to do about it, Wilkins?"
"First of all," answered Wilkins, promptly, "I am going to find out if Jim took that money."
"How can you find out?"
"Did you notice that he had come out with a new ring?"
"No, I didn't observe it."
"He has bought it since that money was lost!" said Wilkins, significantly.
"Do you think he purchased it with the missing bill?"
"I wouldn't wonder at all. At any rate, I am going to find out. He must have bought it from Washburn, the jeweler. Will you go with me, and ask?"
"Yes," answered Ben, eagerly. "Let us go alone. If we can only prove the theft upon Jim, so that old Sock can't help believing that he stole the money, we shall be cleared; though, as to that, there isn't a scholar in school who would believe the charge against us."
"Still, we may as well do what we can to bring the guilt home to Jim Smith."
Ten minutes later the two boys entered the shop of Mr. Washburn.
"Will you show me some rings, Mr. Washburn?" asked Wilkins.
"Certainly," answered the jeweler, politely.
"What is the price of that?" asked Wilkins, pointing to one exactly like the one he had seen on Jim's finger.
"Three dollars and a half. It is a very pretty pattern."
"Yes, sir. There's one of our boys who has one just like it."
"You mean James Smith, the principal's nephew."
"He bought it of me yesterday."
The two boys exchanged a quick glance.
They felt that they were on the brink of a discovery.
"Did he give you a five-dollar bill in payment?" asked Ben Platt.
"Yes," answered the jeweler, in surprise.
"Could you identify that bill?"
"What are you driving at, boys?" asked Mr. Washburn, keenly.
"I will explain to you if you will answer my questions first."
"Yes, I could identify the bill."
"Have you it in your possession still?"
"How will you know it?"
"It seems to me, my boy, you are in training for a lawyer."
"I have a very urgent reason for asking you this question, Mr. Washburn."
"Then I will answer you. When the note was given me, I noticed that it was on the Park Bank of New York."
"Will you be kind enough to see if you can find it?"'
The jeweler opened his money drawer, and after a brief search, produced the bill in question.
It was a five-dollar bill on the Park Bank of New York, as he had already told the boys.
"Now, Mr. Washburn," asked Wilkins, trying to repress his excitement, "will you examine the back of the bill, and see if there is any mark on it."
The jeweler did as requested, and announced, after slight examination, that there was a cross on the back of the bill in the upper right hand corner.
"Hurrah!" shouted Ben, impulsively.
To the wondering jeweler he explained his precise object in the inquiry he had made, and the boys were complimented by Mr. Washburn for their shrewdness.
"If I ever meet with a loss, I shall certainly call on you for assistance, boys," he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Washburn," answered Wilkins, "but I do not expect to be here to be called upon."
"You are not going to leave the institute, are you?"
"I shall write to my father in what manner I have been treated, and let him understand how the principal manages the school, and I feel sure he will withdraw me."
"Ditto for me!" said Ben Platt. "Old Sock's partiality for his nephew has been carried too far, and now that the only decent teacher is going—Mr. Crabb—I don't mean, to stay here if I can help it."
The boys, upon their return to the school, sought out the principal.
"Well, boys," he said, "have you come to confess?"
"No, sir," answered Ben, "but we have come to give you some information about your money."
"I was sure you knew something about it," said Socrates, with a sneer. "I am glad you have decided to make a clean breast of it."
"You are mistaken, sir."
"Well, out with your information!" said the principal, roughly.
"A five-dollar bill, marked as you have described, was paid to Mr. Washburn, the jeweler, only yesterday."
"The one who offered it purchased a gold ring."
"I don't care what he bought. Who was it that offered the money?"
"Your nephew, James Smith!"
"I don't believe it," said the teacher, very much disconcerted.
"Then, sir, I advise you to question Mr. Washburn."
"How can he identify the bill? Is it the only five-dollar bill he has?"
"The only five-dollar bill on the Park Bank of New York, and he says he noticed that this was the bank that issued the bill handed him by your nephew."
"What of that?"
"The note, which he still has in his possession, is marked just exactly as you have described."
"It may have been marked since it came into Mr. Washburn's hands," said Socrates, but he was evidently very much disturbed by the intelligence. He might not confess it, but he could not help believing that Jim was the thief, after all.
"You can go," he said, harshly. "I will look into this improbable story."
CHAPTER XXV. SMITH INSTITUTE GROWS UNPOPULAR.
Hector lost no time in drawing up a statement of the facts connected with the loss of the wallet, which he got Wilkins and Ben Platt to sign. This he put into an envelope directed to Allan Roscoe, accompanied by a brief note, which I subjoin:
"MR. ROSCOE: I send you a statement, signed by two of my schoolmates, showing that the charge which Mr. Smith was in such a hurry to bring against me, in order to screen his nephew, who is the real thief, is wholly unfounded. I am not particularly surprised that you were ready to believe it, nor do I care enough for your good opinion to worry. I consider that it is due to myself, however, to prove to you that I have done nothing of which I need be ashamed. Finding the scholars here in terror of a bully, who imposed upon his schoolfellows with impunity because, being the principal's nephew, he was protected in so doing, I taught him a lesson which may not do him good, but has certainly been of benefit to his fellow-pupils. In so doing, I have incurred his enmity, and that of his uncle, who, for more than one reason, is utterly unfit to conduct a school of this kind.
"You threaten to remove me from school at the end of this term. I do not wish to remain, and shall remove myself at the end of this week. I shall not look to you for support, nor do I expect again to depend upon the estate to which I once thought myself the heir, unless I should be able to prove that I am the son of your brother, as I fully believe, notwithstanding the letter you exhibit."
When Mr. Allan Roscoe received this letter he was very much disturbed. As he had no affection for Hector, and did not care what became of him, this may, perhaps, excite surprise. Could it be the last sentence which excited his alarm?
"Is that letter from Hector?" asked Guy, who had noticed the postmark as it lay upon his father's table.
"Yes," answered Allan Roscoe.
"Does he try to explain his theft?" asked Guy.
"He says he had nothing to do with it."
"Oh, of course!" sneered Guy. "You don't believe it, do you?"
"He sends a statement of two of the pupils to the effect that the wallet was taken by another pupil, a nephew of the principal."
"That's too thin!"
"I don't know. It may be true. I don't like the boy, but I hardly think it probable he would steal."
"You think better of him than I do. I suppose he wants to get into your good graces again?"
"No; he says he shall leave school at the end of this week, and will not again look to me for support."
"That's jolly!" exclaimed Guy, much pleased. "You're well rid of him, papa. Let him go away and make a living as he can. He'll have to turn newsboy, or something of that sort—perhaps he'll have to be a bootblack. Wouldn't that be a good come down for a boy like Hector?"
Guy spoke with great glee, but his father did not seem to enjoy his release as well as Guy. He showed that he understood the boy better when he said:
"Hector will not have to resort to any such employment. He has a good education, and he can get some decent position, probably. On the whole, I am sorry he is going to leave my protection, for friends of the family may, perhaps, blame me."
"But it isn't your fault, papa. He is taking his own course."
"To be sure. You are right there!"
Mr. Roscoe thought so much on the subject, however, that the next day he went to Smith Institute to see Hector, without telling Guy where he was going.
Arrived there, he asked to see Mr. Smith.
The latter did not appear to be in a happy frame of mind.
"How do you do, Mr. Roscoe?" he said.
"Very well," answered Mr. Roscoe, briefly. "Mr. Smith, I wish to see my ward."
"I am sorry you cannot see him, Mr. Roscoe."
"Cannot see him! Why not?"
"Because he has left the institute."
Allan Roscoe frowned.
"Why has he left?" he asked.
"He has left against my will. I think he has been influenced by an usher in my employ who has behaved very ungratefully. I took him, sir, when he was in danger of starving, and now he leaves me at a day's notice, after doing all he can to break up my school."
"I feel no particular interest in your usher," said Allan Roscoe, coldly. "I wish to obtain information about the boy I placed under your charge. Do you know where he has gone?"
"No; he did not tell me," answered the principal.
"You wrote me that he had been detected in stealing a wallet!"
"Yes," answered Socrates, embarrassed. "Appearances were very much against him."
"Do you still think he took it?"
"I may have been mistaken," answered Mr. Smith, nervously, for he began to see that the course he had been pursuing was a very unwise one.
"Hector has written me, inclosing a statement signed by two of his schoolfellows, implicating your own nephew, and he charges that you made the charge against him out of partiality for the same."
"There is considerable prejudice against my nephew," said Socrates.
"And for very good reasons, I should judge," said Allan Roscoe, severely. "Hector describes him as an outrageous bully and tyrant. I am surprised, Mr. Smith, that you should have taken his part."
Now, Socrates had already had a stormy interview with his nephew. Though partial to Jim, and not caring whether or not he bullied the other boys, as soon as he came to see that Jim's presence was endangering the school, he reprimanded him severely. He cared more for himself—for number one—than for anyone else in the universe. He had been exceedingly disturbed by receiving letters from the fathers of Wilkins and Ben Platt, and two other fathers, giving notice that they should remove their sons at the end of the term, and demanding, in the meantime, that his nephew should be sent away forthwith.
And now Allan Roscoe, whom he had hoped would side with him, had also turned against him. Then he had lost the services of a competent usher, whom he got cheaper than he could secure any suitable successor, and, altogether, things seemed all going against him.
Moreover, Jim, who had been the occasion of all the trouble, had answered him impudently, and Socrates felt that he had been badly used. As to his own agency in the matter, he did not give much thought to that.
"My nephew is going to leave the school, Mr. Roscoe," said Socrates, half-apologetically.
"I should think it was full time, Mr. Smith."
"Perhaps so," said Smith; "but if I have stood by him, it has been in ignorance. I cannot think him as wrong as your ward has probably represented. Hector was jealous of him."
"Of his scholarship, I presume?"
"Well, no," answered the principal, reluctantly, "but of his physical superiority, and—and influence in the school. I may say, in fact, Mr. Roscoe, that till your ward entered the school it was a happy and harmonious family. His coming stirred up strife and discontent, and I consider him primarily responsible for all the trouble that has occurred."
"I don't defend Hector Roscoe," said Allan, "but he writes me that your nephew was a bully, who imposed upon his schoolfellows, and that he, by taking their part and stopping this tyranny, incurred his ill-will and yours."
"I supposed I should be misrepresented," said Socrates, meekly. "I am devoted to my school and my pupils, Mr. Roscoe. I am wearing out my life in their service. I may make mistakes sometimes, but my heart—my heart, Mr. Roscoe," continued Socrates, tapping his waistcoat, "is right, and acquits me of any intentional injustice."
"I am glad to hear it, Mr. Smith," said Allan Roscoe, stiffly. "As Hector has left you, I have only to settle your bill, and bid you good-day."
"Will you not exert your influence to persuade the boy to return?" pleaded Socrates.
"As I don't know where he is, I don't see how I can," said Allan Roscoe, dryly.
"That man is an arch hypocrite!" he said to himself, as he was returning home.
I may state here that at the end of the term half the pupils left Smith Institute, and Socrates Smith lamented too late the folly that had made him and his school unpopular.
CHAPTER XXVI. HECTOR'S ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK.
Mr. Crabb and Hector were sitting side by side in a railroad car, speeding away from Smith Institute. In the heart of each was a feeling of relief, which increased as each minute carried them farther away from the school.
"Hector," said the usher, looking younger and happier than his pupil had ever known him, "I feel like a free man now. It is a feeling that I have not had since I first set foot in Smith Institute."
"I think you will lead a happier life in New York, Mr. Crabb."
"I am sure of it. Thanks to your considerate kindness, I shall for the first time earn an ample salary, and even be able to lay up money. Is my future pupil about your age?"
"He is a year younger."
"Where did you make his acquaintance?"
"At Saratoga, My father and I spent two months at Congress Hall two summers ago, and as Walter's family were also there, we naturally got to be friends. He is a capital fellow, and you will be sure to like him."
"I am ready to like him after reading that letter he wrote you. Is he fond of study?"
"That is his weak point," said Hector, laughing. "Walter was never cut out for a scholar. I don't mean, of course, that he hasn't fair capacity, but his taste doesn't lie that way. However, he won't give you any trouble, only you won't succeed as well as you may wish in pushing him on."
"All boys are not cut out for scholars," said the usher. "Now you, Hector, would do excellently, and might hope to make a very successful professional man."
Hector shook his head.
"I must look to a different career," he said. "I am to be the architect of my own fortune, you know."
"What are your plans, Hector?" asked the usher.
"I will consult with Mr. Boss, Walter's father. By the way, he knows nothing of the change in my circumstances. He supposes me to be the heir to the Roscoe estate."
"Trouble has come upon you early, Hector. Should you need help hereafter, you must remember that I am earning a good salary and—"
"Thank you, Mr. Crabb," gratefully, "but you will need all you earn. I don't look upon my loss of fortune as a trouble. I think it will make me more manly and self-reliant, and stimulate me to exertion. I have a fair education, and I am sure I can earn my living in some honest way."
"If that is your spirit, Hector, I am sure you will succeed. You are young and hopeful. I am too much inclined to despond. I have always been timid about the future. It is a matter of temperament."
It was early in the afternoon when they reached New York. As they emerged from the depot a bright-faced boy came up eagerly and greeted them.
"How are you, Hector?" he said. "You see, I came to meet you. I have been longing to have you come."
"I am just as glad to see you, Walter," said Hector, heartily. "Mr. Crabb, here is your future pupil, Walter Boss."
"I hope we may soon be friends, Walter," said the usher, attracted by the bright, sunny face of the boy.
Walter gave the usher his hand.
"I hope so, too," he said, smiling. "I'll try not to worry you any more than I can help."
"I have no misgivings," said Mr. Crabb, as he mentally contrasted his new pupil with Jim Smith, and two or three others at the institute, who had been a frequent source of trouble and annoyance.
"Here is the carriage," said Walter, pointing out a plain but handsome carriage waiting outside. "Bundle in, both of you! I beg your pardon, Mr. Crabb, for my familiarity. That was intended for Hector."
"I am ready to be classed with Hector," said Mr. Crabb.
"I am glad to hear you say so. I was afraid you would be stiff and dignified."
"I think I shall take my cue from you."
"Oh, my rule is, go as you please. Edward, drive home!"
The house occupied by Mr. Boss was a fine brown-stone dwelling on Forty-second Street. Arrived there, Mr. Crabb was shown into a spacious chamber, on the third floor, furnished with a luxury to which the poor usher was quite unaccustomed.
"Now, Hector, you can have a room to yourself, or you may share my den," said Walter.
"I would rather share the den," said Hector.
"That's what I hoped. You see, we shall have ever so much to say to each other. We haven't seen each other for over a year."
A slight shade of gravity overspread Hector's face. Since he had met his friend, his father had died, and he had been reduced from the heir of wealth to a penniless orphan. Of this last change Walter knew nothing, but Hector did not mean long to leave him in ignorance.
At dinner the two newcomers saw Mr. Ross, from whom they received a friendly welcome. The usher was put at his ease at once.
"I hope you'll get along with my boy," said the bluff city merchant. "Of one thing you may be assured, your scholarship won't be severely taxed in educating him. Walter is a pretty good boy, but he isn't a prodigy of learning."
"I may be some day, father," said Walter, "with Mr. Crabb's help."
"I take it Mr. Crabb isn't able to perform miracles," said Mr. Ross, good-humoredly. "No, Mr. Crabb, I shan't expect too much of you. Get your pupil on moderately fast, and I shall be satisfied. I am glad, Hector, that you were able to pay Walter a visit at this time."
"So am I, sir."
"I thought you might not be able to leave your studies."
"I have given up study, sir."
"I am surprised at that, Hector. I thought you contemplated going to college."
"So I did, sir, but circumstances have changed my plans."
"Yes, sir; I will explain after dinner, and will ask your advice."
Mr. Ross dropped the subject, and after dinner led the way to the library, where he sank into an armchair, and, breathing a sigh of satisfaction, said: "This, Mr. Crabb, is the most enjoyable part of the twenty-four hours for me. I dismiss business cares and perplexities, and read my evening paper, or some new book, in comfort."
As the usher looked about him and saw costly books, engravings, furniture and pictures, he could well understand that in such surroundings the merchant could take solid comfort. It was a most agreeable contrast to the plain and poverty-stricken room at Smith Institute, where the boys pursued their evening studies under his superintendence.
"Well, Hector, so you don't propose to go back to school," said the merchant. "Isn't that rather a sudden resolution?"
"Yes, sir; but, as I said, circumstances have changed."
"What circumstances? Because you are rich, you don't think you ought to be idle, I hope?"
"Oh, no, sir. It is because I have discovered that I am not rich."
"Not rich! I always understood that your father left a large estate," said Mr. Ross, in surprise.
"So he did, sir."
"Didn't it descend to you?"
"I thought so till recently."
"Why don't you think so now?"
In answer, Hector told the story of the revelation made to him by Allan Roscoe, after his father's death.
"You see, therefore," he concluded, "that I am penniless, and a dependent upon Mr. Allan Roscoe's generosity."
"This is a most extraordinary story!" said the merchant, after a pause.
"Yes, sir; it changes my whole future."
"I suppose Mr. Allan Roscoe is the beneficiary, and the estate goes to him?"
"Did your father—the late Mr. Roscoe—ever hint to you anything which could lead you to suspect that you were not his own, but an adopted son?"
"Never, Mr. Ross," answered Hector, with emphasis.
"Did he continue to treat you with affection."
"Always. Nothing in his manner ever would have led me to imagine that I was not his own son."
"He left no will?"
"What are your plans?"
"I do not wish to remain dependent upon Allan Roscoe. I should like to obtain a situation of some kind in the city, if I can."
"I can probably serve you, then, after a while. For the present, stay here as Walter's companion."
"Thank you, sir; I should like nothing better."
CHAPTER XXVII. LARRY DEANE.
Not altogether in accordance with his inclinations, Walter was set to work at his studies immediately under the direction of Mr. Crabb. He asked his father for a week's vacation to go about the city with Hector, but his father answered in the negative.
"You are too far behind in your studies, Walter," he said. "You are two years, at least, behind Hector, and cannot spare the time as well as he."
"Hector will have to go round alone," objected Walter.
"It will do him no harm to get acquainted with the different parts of the city, as that will be a kind of knowledge he may require if he should obtain a situation."
"I shan't see much of him."
"Oh, yes, you will; Mr. Crabb will not make you study all day. Mr. Crabb, you may work with Walter from nine to one. This, with perhaps an hour or more devoted to study in the afternoon or evening, will enable him to make fair progress."
This arrangement struck Walter favorably, as he could, whenever he desired it, spend the whole afternoon with Hector.
Hector found it very pleasant to act upon the suggestion made by Mr. Ross. He had visited the city of New York at different times, but had never enjoyed the opportunity of exploring it by himself. His first visit was made to Central Park, where he mingled with the crowds wandering about in search of pleasure.
He made his way to the lake, and took passage in one of the skiffs which, in charge of a skilled oarsman, makes a tour of the pretty and picturesque sheet of water.
The second morning he turned his steps southward, and walked down Broadway. It was a leisurely walk, for he had no scruple in stopping wherever he saw anything in the streets or in the shop windows that seemed to him worthy of attention. About the corner of Canal Street he was very much surprised at a boy who was on his knees, blacking the boots of an elderly gentleman—a boy whom he recognized at once as the son of a man who had for years been in his father's employ as gardener at Castle Roscoe.
"What brings him here?" thought Hector, much surprised.
"Larry Deane!" he said, as the boy finished his job, and rose from his feet to receive his pay.
"Hector Roscoe!" exclaimed Larry, not much less surprised.
"What brings you here, and what has reduced you to such work?" inquired Hector.
Larry Deane was a boy of about Hector's age. He was a healthy-looking country lad, looking like many another farmer's son, fresh from the country. He had not yet acquired that sharp, keen look which characterizes, in most cases, the New York boy who has spent all his life in the streets.
"I can answer both your questions with the same word, Master Hector," said Larry, as a sober look swept over his broad, honest face.
"Don't call me master, Larry. We are equals here. But what is that word?"
"That word is trouble,'" answered the bootblack.
"Come with me into this side street," said Hector, leading the way into Howard Street. "You have a story to tell, and I want to hear it."
"Yes, I have a story to tell."
"I hope your father and mother are well," said Hector, interrupting him.
"Yes, they are well in health, but they are in trouble, as I told you."
"What is the trouble?"
"It all comes of Mr. Allan Roscoe," answered Larry, "and his son, Guy."
"Tell me all about it."
"I was walking in the fields one day," said Larry, "when Guy came out and began to order me round, and call me a clodhopper and other unlikely names, which I didn't enjoy. Finally he pulled off my hat, and when I put it back on my head, he pulled it off again. Finally I found the only way to do was to give him as good as he sent. So I pulled off his hat and threw it up in a tree. He became very angry, and ordered me to go up after it. I wouldn't do it, but walked away. The next day my father was summoned to the house, where Mr. Allan Roscoe complained of me for insulting his son. He asked my father to thrash me, and when father refused, he discharged him from his employment. A day or two afterward a new gardener came to Roscoe Castle, and father understood that there was no chance of his being taken back."
"That was very mean in Mr. Roscoe," said Hector, indignantly.
"Yes, so it was; but father couldn't do anything. He couldn't get a new place, for it wasn't the right time of year, and Mr. Roscoe said he wouldn't give him a recommendation. Well, we had very little money in the house, for mother has been sick of late years, and all father's extra earnings went to pay for medicines and the doctor's bill. So one day I told father I would come to New York and see if I couldn't find something to do."
"I think you did the right thing, Larry," said Hector, approvingly. "It was your duty to help your father if you could."
"I can't help him much," answered Larry.
"What made you take up this business, Larry?"
"I couldn't get anything else to do, besides, this pays better than working in a store or office."
"How—much can you earn at it?"
"Six or seven dollars a week."
"I should think it would require all that to support you."
"It would if I went to a boarding house, but I can't afford that."
"Where do you live?"
"At the Newsboys' Lodging House."
"How much does that cost you?"
"For eighteen cents a day I get supper, lodging and breakfast. In the middle of the day I go to a cheap restaurant."
"Then you are able to save something?"
"Yes; last week I sent home three dollars, the week before two dollars and a half."
"Why, that is doing famously. You are a good boy, Larry."
"Thank you, Hector; but, though it is doing very well for me, it isn't as much as they need at home. Besides, I can't keep it up, as, after a while, I shall need to buy some new clothes. If your father had been alive, my father would never have lost his place. Master Hector, won't you use your influence with your uncle to have him taken back?"
Hector felt keenly how powerless he was in the matter. He looked grave, as he answered:
"Larry, you may be sure that I would do all in my power to have your father restored to the position from which he never should have been removed; but I fear I can do nothing."
"Won't you write to Mr. Roscoe?" pleaded Larry, who, of course, did not understand why Hector was powerless.
"Yes, I will write to him, but I am sorry to say that I have very little influence with Mr. Roscoe."
"That is strange," said Larry; "and you the owner of the estate."
Hector did not care to explain to Larry just how matters stood, so he only said:
"I can't explain to you what seems strange to you, Larry, but I may be able to do so some time. I will certainly write to Mr. Roscoe, as you desire; but you must not build any hopes upon it. Meanwhile, will you accept this from me, and send it to your father?"
As he spoke, he drew from his pocketbook a five-dollar bill and handed it to his humble friend.
Larry would not have accepted it had he known that Hector was nearly as poor as himself, but, supposing him to be the heir of a large and rich estate, he felt no hesitation.
"Thank you very much, Hector," he said; "you had always a kind heart. This money will do my father very much good. I will send it to him to-day."
"Do you generally stand here, Larry?" asked Hector.
"Then I will take pains to see you again."
"Shall you stay long in the city, Master Hector?"
"Not Master Hector."
"Then Hector, if you don't mind."
"I shall be here for the present—I don't know how long."
"Then let me black your boots for nothing every time you come by—I want to do something for you."
"Thank you, Larry; but I don't like to have a friend perform such a service. Remember me to your father when you write."
"I wish I could do something for Larry," said Hector, to himself, as he walked away. "As it is, I stand in need of help myself."
He was to make a friend that day under rather unusual circumstances.
CHAPTER XXVIII. TWO MORE ACQUAINTANCES.
Hector continued his walk downtown. Despite the crowds of persons who thronged the sidewalks, he did not anticipate meeting anyone else that he knew. But he was destined to another surprise. On the corner of Murray Street he saw two persons advancing toward him, the last, perhaps, that he expected to see. Not to keep the reader in suspense, it was Allan Roscoe and his son, Guy.
Guy was the first to recognize Hector. Of course, he, too, was surprised.
"Why, there's Hector!" he exclaimed, directing his father's attention to our hero.
Allan Roscoe looked up quickly. It is hard to tell whether he felt glad or the reverse at this meeting with the boy whom he called his ward.
An instant later Hector recognized Guy and his father.
"How do you do, Mr. Roscoe?" he said, politely.
"Very well. When did you reach New York?"
It should have been explained that Hector had spent Sunday quietly with Mr. Ross and Walter, and that this was Monday.
"Ahem! I was very much surprised at your leaving the institute," said Mr. Roscoe.
"I explained to you in my letter why I proposed to leave it," Hector answered, coldly.
"I did not think your reason sufficient."
"As Mr. Smith saw fit to bring a base charge against me, and persisted in it, even after he must have been convinced that his nephew was guilty, I was unwilling to remain under his charge any longer."
"The circumstances were against you," said Mr. Roscoe.
"You might have known me better than that, Mr. Roscoe," said Hector, proudly. "Yet you condemned me unheard."
"Of course, I am very glad that the charge is unfounded," said Mr. Roscoe, awkwardly.
"Where there is smoke there is generally fire," said Guy, spitefully.
"I understand you, Guy," said Hector, half turning to look at the boy who had usurped his place. "I hope you won't think it impolite if I say that I care nothing whatever for your opinion."
"You put on as many airs as ever," sneered Guy. "I should think you would be a little more humble in your changed position."
"I have not changed, even if my position has," answered Hector. "Money is nothing to be proud of."
"I apprehend that the world judges differently," said Allan Roscoe. "Since you have taken your destiny into your own hands, you will excuse me for asking how you intend to earn your living?"
"I hope to get a mercantile position," answered Hector.
"Take my advice," said Guy, with a derisive smile, "and buy yourself a blacking box and brush. I am told bootblacks make a good deal of money."
"Hush, Guy!" said his father. "Do not insult Hector."
But Hector concerned himself but little with any slight received from Guy Roscoe. His words, however, recalled his thoughts to the boy he had so recently met, Larry Deane, and he resolved to see if he could not help him by an appeal to Allan Roscoe.
"Mr. Roscoe," said he, quickly, "I nearly forgot something I want very much to say to you."
"What is it?" asked his guardian, suspiciously. It occurred to him that Hector wished to borrow some money, and he was considering how little he could decently give him.
"I hear you have discharged Reuben Deane from his position?"
"How did you hear it?"
"From his son, Larry."
"Where did you see Larry?" asked Allan, in some curiosity.
"He has been driven to take up that employment which Guy so kindly recommended to me."
"Larry Deane a bootblack! That's a good one!" exclaimed Guy, with evident relish.
"I don't think so," said Hector. "The poor boy is picking a poor living, and sending home what he can to his father, who cannot get new employment. Mr. Roscoe, why did you discharge him?"
"I can answer that question, though it's none of your business all the same," volunteered Guy. "The boy Larry was impudent to me, and his father took his part."
"Mr. Roscoe," said Hector, "Reuben Deane was in my father's employ before I was born. Larry and I used to play together when we were little boys, and since when we were older."
"A bootblack is a nice playmate," said Guy, with his usual sneer.
"He was not a bootblack then," retorted Hector, "nor would he be now but for your mean spite. Mr. Roscoe, as I happen to know, my father always valued the services of Reuben Deane, and I ask, in his name, that you give him back his place."
"My brother may have been deceived in him," said Allan Roscoe, coldly, emphasizing the first two words, in order to remind Hector that he was no longer to consider him as his father; "but I cannot promise to adopt all his views and protege's. I have displaced Deane and substituted for him a gardener with whom I am better pleased."
"Have you no sympathy for the poverty and distress of a man who has served our family faithfully for so many years?" asked Hector, half indignantly.
"My father is competent to manage his own affairs," said Guy, offensively.
"You don't appear to think so, or you would not answer for him," retorted Hector.
"Boys, I must request you to desist from this bickering," said Allan Roscoe. "I am sorry, Hector, that I cannot comply with your request. By the way, you did not tell me where you were staying."
"With a gentleman on Forty-second Street."
"What is his name?"
"Not the eminent merchant of that name?" asked Allan Roscoe, in surprise.
"Yes, I believe so."
"He is worth a million."
"I supposed he was rich. He lives in an elegant house."
"Where did you get acquainted with him, Hector?"
"At Saratoga, a year and a half ago."
"Did you beg him to take you in?" asked Guy, unpleasantly.
Hector quietly ignored the question.
"Walter Boss and I have been very intimate, and I was invited to pay him a visit."
"Does he know that you are a poor boy?" asked Guy.
"I have communicated to Mr. Ross what your father told me," answered Hector, coldly. "He is a real friend, and it made no difference in his treatment of me. I hope to get a situation through his influence."
"You are lucky to have such a man for a friend," said Allan Roscoe, who would himself have liked to become acquainted with a man whose social position was so high. "I hope you will not misrepresent me to him. Should any opportunity occur, I will try to procure you employment."
"Thank you, sir," said Hector, but his tone lacked heartiness. He saw that his being a visitor to Mr. Ross and his son had made a difference in his favor. Guy, too, began to think he might be a little more gracious. He, like his father, liked to associate with boys of high social position, and he would have liked to be introduced to Walter Ross.
"What is your number?" he asked of Hector, "I don't know but I'll call and see you some time. Is Walter Ross generally at home?"
"Don't put yourself to any inconvenience to call," said Hector, significantly. "Walter and I are generally away in the afternoon."
"Oh, I don't care to call upon you," said Guy, annoyed. "I can have all the company I want."
"I won't detain you any longer, Mr. Roscoe," said Hector, realizing that the conversation had occupied considerable time. "Good-morning."
"That boy is as proud as ever," said Guy, after Hector had left them. "He doesn't seem to realize that he has lost his money."
"He has not had time to realize it yet. It won't be long before he will understand the difference it makes."
"I am glad he isn't my cousin," continued Guy. "I dislike him more than any boy I know."
Allan Roscoe looked thoughtful.
"I fear that boy will give me trouble yet," he said to himself. "He evidently suspects that something is wrong."
CHAPTER XXIX. JIM SMITH EFFECTS A LOAN.
After parting with Allan Roscoe and Guy, Hector kept on his way downtown. He did not expect to meet any more acquaintances, but he was again to be surprised. Standing on the sidewalk having his boots blacked, he recognized the schoolfellow he had least reason to like—Jim Smith.
"What brings Jim here?" he asked himself, in some surprise.
He did not feel inclined to go up and claim acquaintance, but it chanced that he became witness of a piece of meanness characteristic of Jim.
When the young bootblack had finished polishing his shoes, he waited for his customary fee.
Jim fumbled in his pockets, and finally produced two cents.
"There, boy," he said, placing them in the hand of the disgusted knight of the brush.
"What's that for?" he asked.
"It's your pay."
"Look here, mister, you've made a mistake; here's only two cents."
"I know it."
"Do you think I work for any such price as that?"
"Perhaps you expect a dollar!" sneered Jim.
"No, I don't; but a nickel's my lowest price. Plenty of gentlemen give me a dime."
"That's too much; I've paid you all I'm going to."
"Wait a minute. That boot don't look as well as the other."
Jim unsuspiciously allowed the boy to complete his work, but he had occasion to regret it. The bootblack hastily rubbed his brush in the mud on the sidewalk and daubed it on one of Jim's boots, quite effacing the shine.
"There, that'll do," he said, and, scrambling to his feet, ran round the corner.
Then, for the first time, Jim looked down, and saw what the boy had done. He uttered an exclamation of disgust and looked round hastily to see where the offender had betaken himself. His glance fell upon Hector, who was quietly looking on, and not without a sense of enjoyment.
It often happens that we greet cordially those for whom we have even a feeling of aversion when we meet them unexpectedly away from our usual haunts. Jim, who was beginning to regret that circumstances had forced him to leave the serene sanctuary of Smith Institute, since now he would be under the necessity of making his own living, was glad to see our hero.
"Is it you, Roscoe?" he said, eagerly.
"Yes," answered Hector, coolly.
"What are you doing?"
"Walking about the city, just at present."
"Suppose we go together."
Hector hardly knew how to refuse, and the two boys kept down Broadway in company.
"You're surprised to see me, ain't you?" asked Jim.
"You see, I got tired of the school. I've been there three years, so I told my uncle I would come to New York and see if I couldn't get work."
"I hope you may succeed," said Hector, for he would not allow his dislikes to carry him too far. He felt that there was room in the world for Jim and himself, too.
"Are you going to work?" asked Jim.
"I hope so."
"Got anything in view?"
"It would be a good thing if we could get into the same place."
"Do you say that because we have always agreed so well?" asked Hector, amused.
"We may be better friends in future," said Jim, with a grin.
Hector was judiciously silent.
"Where are you staying?"
"Up on Forty-second Street."
"That's a good way uptown, isn't it?"
"Yes, pretty far up."
"Are you boarding?"
"No; I am visiting some friends."
"Couldn't you get me in there as one of your school friends?"
This question indicated such an amount of assurance on the part of his old enemy that at first Hector did not know how to reply in fitting terms.
"I couldn't take such a liberty with my friends," he said. "Besides, it doesn't strike me that we were on very intimate terms."
But Jim was not sensitive to a rebuff.
"The fact is," he continued, "I haven't got much money, and it would be very convenient to visit somebody. Perhaps you could lend me five dollars?"
"I don't think I could. I think I shall have to say good-morning."
"I can't make anything out of him," said Jim to himself, philosophically. "I wonder if he's got any money. Uncle Socrates told me his uncle had cast him off."
Going up Broadway instead of down, it was not long before Jim met Allan Roscoe and Guy, whom he immediately recognized. Not being troubled with immodesty, he at once walked up to Mr. Roscoe and held out his hand.
"Good-morning, Mr. Roscoe!" he said, in an ingratiating voice.
"Good-morning, young man. Where have I met you?" asked Allan Roscoe, puzzled.
"At Smith Institute. I am the nephew of Mr. Smith."
"What! Not the nephew who—"
Mr. Roscoe found it hard to finish the sentence. He didn't like to charge Jim with stealing to his face.
"I know what you mean," said Jim, boldly. "I am the one whom your nephew charged with taking money which he took himself. I don't want to say anything against him, as he is your nephew, but he is an artful young—but no matter. You are his uncle."
"He is not my nephew, but was only cared for by my brother," said Allan Roscoe. "You may tell me freely, my good fellow, all the truth. You say that Hector stole the money which your uncle lost."
"Yes; but he has made my uncle believe that I took it. It is hard upon me," said Jim, pathetically, "as I was dependent upon my uncle. I have been driven forth into the cold world by my benefactor because your nephew prejudiced his mind against me."
"I believe him, papa," said Guy, who was only too glad to believe anything against Hector. "I have thought all along that Hector was guilty."
"Is that your son?" asked the crafty Jim. "I wish he had come to the institute, instead of Hector. He is a boy that I couldn't help liking."
There are few who are altogether inaccessible to flattery. At any rate, Guy was not one of this small number.
"I feel sure you are not guilty," said Guy, regarding Jim graciously. "It was a very mean thing in Hector to get you into trouble."
"It was, indeed," said Jim. "I am cast out of my uncle's house, and now I have no home, and hardly any money."
"Hector is in the city. Have you seen him?" asked Allan Roscoe.
"Yes; I met him a few minutes since."
"Did you speak to him?"
"Yes; I reproached him for getting me into trouble, but he only laughed in my face. He told me he hated you both," added Jim, ingenuously.
"Just like Hector!" said Guy. "What have I always told you, papa?"
"I am sorry you have suffered such injustice at the hands of anyone in any way connected with my family," said Mr. Roscoe, who, like Guy, was not indisposed to believe anything to the discredit of Hector. "I do not feel responsible for his unworthy acts, but I am willing to show my sympathy by a small gift."
He produced a five-dollar note and put it into Jim's ready hand.
"Thank you, sir," he said. "You are a gentleman."
So the interview closed, and Jim left the spot, chuckling at the manner in which he had wheedled so respectable a sum out of Allan Roscoe.
Meanwhile Hector, after looking about him, turned, and, getting into a Broadway stage, rode uptown as far as Twenty-third Street, where the stage turned down toward Sixth Avenue. He concluded to walk the remainder of the way.
As he was walking up Madison Avenue, his attention was drawn to a little girl in charge of a nursemaid. The latter met an acquaintance and forgot her charge. The little girl, left to herself, attempted to cross the street just as a private carriage was driven rapidly up the avenue. The driver was looking away, and it seemed as if, through the double neglect of the driver and the nurse, the poor child would be crushed beneath the hoofs of the horses and the wheels of the carriage.
CHAPTER XXX. A BRAVE DEED.
Hector's heart stood still as he realized the peril of the child. He dashed forward on the impulse of the moment, and barely succeeded in catching up the little girl and drawing her back out of harm's way. The driver, who had done his best to rein up his horses, but without success, ejaculated with fervent gratitude, for he, too, had a child of his own about the age of the little girl, "God bless you, boy."
The little girl seemed less concerned than anyone of the spectators. She put her hand confidently in Hector's, and said: "Take me to Mary."
"And who is Mary?" asked Hector, kindly.
He did not require an answer, for the nurse, who, rather late in the day, had awakened to the fact that her charge was in danger, came running forward, crying: "Oh! Miss Gracie, what made you run away?"
"The little girl would have been killed but for this boy's timely help," said a middle-aged spectator, gravely.
"I'm sure I don't know what possessed her to run away," said Mary, confusedly.
"She wouldn't if she had been properly looked after," said the gentleman, sharply, for he had children of his own.
Hector was about to release the child, now that he had saved her, but she was not disposed to let him go.
"You go with me, too!" she said.
She was a pretty child, with a sweet face, rimmed round by golden curls, her round, red cheeks glowing with exercise.
"What is her name?" asked Hector, of the nurse.
"Grace Newman," answered the nurse, who felt the necessity of saying something in her own defense. "She's a perfect little runaway. She worries my life out running round after her."
"Grace Newman!" said the middle-aged gentleman already referred to. "Why, she must be the child of my friend, Titus Newman, of Pearl Street."
"Yes, sir," said the nurse.
"My old friend little knows what a narrow escape his daughter has had."
"I hope you won't tell him, sir," said Mary, nervously.
"Because he would blame me."
"And so he ought!" said the gentleman, nodding vigorously. "It's no merit of yours that she wasn't crushed beneath the wheels of that carriage. If you had been attending to your duty, she wouldn't have been in danger."
"I don't see as it's any business of yours," said Mary, pertly. "You ain't her father, or her uncle."
"I am a father, and have common humanity," said the gentleman, "and I consider you unfit for your place."
"Come along, Grace!" said Mary, angry at being blamed. "You've behaved very badly, and I'm going to take you home."
"Won't you come, too?" asked the little girl, turning to Hector.
"No, there's no call for him to come," said the nurse, pulling the child away.
"Good-by, Gracie," said Hector, kindly.
"Good-by!" responded the child.
"These nursemaids neglect their charges criminally," said the gentleman, directing his remarks to Hector. "Mr. Newman owes his child's safety, perhaps her life, to your prompt courage."
"She was in great danger," said Hector. "I was afraid at first I could not save her."
"A second later and it would have been too late. What is your name, my brave young friend?"
"Hector Roscoe, sir."
"It is a good name. Do you live in the city?"
"At present I do, sir. I was brought up in the country."
"Going to school, I take it."
"I am looking for a place, sir."
"I wish I had one to give you. I retired from business two years since, and have no employment for anyone."
"Thank you, sir; I should have liked to serve you."
"But I'll tell you what, my young friend, I have a considerable acquaintance among business men. If you will give me your address, I may have something to communicate to you ere long."
"Thank you, sir."
Hector drew a card from his pocket, and added to it the number of Mr. Ross' house.
"I am much obliged to you for your kind offer," he said.
"You don't look as if you stood in need of employment," said the gentleman, noticing the fine material of which Hector's suit was made.
"Appearances are sometimes deceitful," said Hector, half smiling.
"You must have been brought up in affluence," said Mr. Davidson, for this was his name.
"Yes, sir, I was. Till recently I supposed myself rich."
"You shall tell me the story some time; now I must leave you."
"Well," thought Hector, as he made his way homeward, "I have had adventures enough for one morning."
When Hector reached the house in Forty-second Street, he found Walter just rising from his lessons.
"Well, Hector, what have you been doing?" asked Walter.
"Wandering about the city."
"Did you see anybody you knew while doing so?"
"Oh, yes! I was particularly favored. I saw Allan Roscoe and Guy—"
"You don't say so! Were they glad to see you?"
"Not particularly. When Guy learned that I was staying here, he proposed to call and make your acquaintance."
"I hope you didn't encourage him," said Walter, with a grimace.
"No; I told him that we were generally out in the afternoon."
"That is right."
"I suppose you have been hard at work, Walter?"
"Ask Mr. Crabb."
"Walter has done very well," said the usher. "If he will continue to study as well, I shall have no fault to find."
"If I do, will you qualify me to be a professor in twelve months' time?"
"I hope not, for in that case I should lose my scholar, and have to bow to his superior knowledge."
"Then you don't know everything, Mr. Crabb?"
"Far from it! I hope your father didn't engage me in any such illusion."
"Because," said Walter, "I had one teacher who pretended to know all there was worth knowing. I remember how annoyed he was once when I caught him in a mistake in geography."
"I shall not be annoyed at all when you find me out in a mistake, for I don't pretend to be very learned."
"Then I think we'll get along," said Walter, favorably impressed by the usher's modesty.
"I suppose if I didn't know anything we should get along even better," said Mr. Crabb, amused.
"Well, perhaps that might be carrying things too far!" Walter admitted.
In the afternoon Hector and Walter spent two hours at the gymnasium in Twenty-eighth Street, and walked leisurely home after a healthful amount of exercise.
For some reason, which he could not himself explain, Hector said nothing to Walter about his rescue of the little girl on Madison Avenue, though he heard of it at the gymnasium.
One of the boys, Henry Carroll, said to Walter: "There was a little girl came near being run over on Madison Avenue this noon!"
"Did you see it?"
"No, but I heard of it."
"Who was the little girl?"
"I know who she is. How did it happen?"
The boy gave a pretty correct account.
"Some boy saved her," he concluded, "by running forward and hauling her out of the road just in time. He ran the risk of being run over himself. Mr. Newman thinks everything of little Grace. I'd like to be in that boy's shoes."
Neither of the boys noticed that Hector's face was flushed, as he listened to the account of his own exploit.
The next morning, among the letters laid upon the breakfast table was one for Hector Roscoe.
"A letter for you, Hector," said Mr. Ross, examining the envelope in some surprise. "Are you acquainted with Titus Newman, the Pearl Street merchant?"
"No, sir," answered Hector, in secret excitement.
"He seems to have written to you," said Mr. Ross.
Hector took the letter and tore open the envelope.
CHAPTER XXXI. AN IMPORTANT LETTER.
The letter alluded to in the last chapter ran thus. It was written from Mr. Newman's house in Madison Avenue, though inclosed in a business envelope:
"MASTER HECTOR ROSCOE: I learn that I am indebted to you for the rescue of my little daughter from imminent peril during my absence from home yesterday. A friend who witnessed her providential escape has given me such an account of your bravery in risking your own life to save that of an unknown child, that I cannot rest till I have had an opportunity of thanking you in person. You will do me a favor, if not otherwise engaged, if you will call at my house this evening, about eight o'clock. Yours gratefully,
It is needless to say that Hector read this letter with feelings of gratification. It is true, as we are often told, that "virtue is its own reward," but it is, nevertheless, pleasant to feel that our efforts to do well and serve others are appreciated.
"No bad news, I hope, Hector?" said Walter.
"No," answered Hector. "You may read the letter, if you like, Mr. Ross."
Mr. Ross did so, and aloud, much to the surprise of everyone at table.
"You did not tell me of this," said Walter, in astonishment.
"No," answered Hector, smiling.
"But why not?"
"Because Hector is modest," Mr. Ross answered for him. "Now, if you had done such a thing, Walter, we should have been sure to hear of it."
"I don't know," returned Walter, comically. "You don't know how many lives I have saved within the last few years."
"Nor anyone else, I fancy," replied his father. "By the way, Hector, there is a paragraph about it in the Herald of this morning. I read it, little suspecting that you were the boy whose name the reporter was unable to learn."
Hector read the paragraph in question with excusable pride. It was, in the main, correct.
"How old was the little girl?" asked Walter.
"Four years old, I should think."
"That isn't quite so romantic as if she had been three times as old."
"I couldn't have rescued her quite as easily, in that case."
Of course, Hector was called upon for an account of the affair, which he gave plainly, without adding any of those embellishments which some boys, possibly some of my young readers, might have been tempted to put in.
"You are fortunate to have obliged a man like Titus Newman, Hector," said Mr. Ross. "He is a man of great wealth and influence."
"Do you know him, papa?" asked Walter.
"No—that is, not at all well. I have been introduced to him."
Punctually at eight o'clock Hector ascended the steps of a handsome residence on Madison Avenue. The door was opened by a colored servant, of imposing manners.
"Is Mr. Newman at home?" asked Hector, politely.
"Be kind enough to hand him this card?"
Presently the servant reappeared, saying:
"Mr. Newman will see you, sar, in the library. I will induct you thither."
"Thank you," answered Hector, secretly amused at the airs put on by his sable conductor.
Seated at a table, in a handsomely furnished library, sat a stout gentleman of kindly aspect. He rose quickly from his armchair and advanced to meet our hero.
"I am glad to see you, my young friend," he said. "Sit there," pointing to a smaller armchair opposite. "So you are the boy who rescued my dear little girl?"
His voice softened as he uttered these last few words, and it was easy to see how strong was the paternal love that swelled his heart.
"I was fortunate in having the opportunity, Mr. Newman."
"You have rendered me a service I can never repay. When I think that but for you the dear child—" his voice faltered.
"Don't think of it, Mr. Newman," said Hector, earnestly. "I don't like to think of it myself."
"And you exposed yourself to great danger, my boy!"
"I suppose I did, sir; but that did not occur to me at the time. It was all over in an instant."
"I see you are modest, and do not care to take too great credit to yourself, but I shall not rest till I have done something to express my sense of your noble courage. Now, I am a man of business, and it is my custom to come to the point directly. Is there any way in which I can serve you."
"I am glad to hear it. Name it."
"I am looking for a situation in some mercantile establishment, Mr. Newman."
"Pardon me, but, judging from your appearance, I should not suppose that it was a matter of importance to you."
"Yes, sir; I am poor."
"You don't look so."
"You judge from my dress, no doubt"—Hector was attired in a suit of fine texture—"I suppose I may say," he added, with a smile, "that I have seen better days."
"Surely, you are young to have met with reverses, if that is what you mean to imply," the merchant remarked, observing our hero with some curiosity.
"Yes, sir; if you have time, I will explain to you how it happened."
As the story has already been told, I will not repeat Hector's words.
Mr. Newman listened with unaffected interest.
"It is certainly a curious story," he said. "Did you, then, quietly surrender your claims to the estate simply upon your uncle's unsupported assertion?"
"I beg pardon, sir. He showed me my father's—that is, Mr. Roscoe's—letter."
"Call him your father, for I believe he was."
"Do you, sir?" asked Hector, eagerly.
"I do. Your uncle's story looks like an invention. Let me think, was your father's name Edward Roscoe?"
"And in what year were you born?"
"In the year 1856."
"Then I feel quite sure that I made your father's acquaintance in the succeeding year, and your own as well, though you were an infant—that is, you were less than a year old."
"Did my father say anything of having adopted me?"
"No; on the contrary, he repeatedly referred to you as his child, and your mother also displayed toward you an affection which would have been at least unusual if you had not been her own child."
"Then you think, sir—" Hector began.
"I think that your uncle's story is a mere fabrication. He has contrived a snare in which you have allowed yourself to be enmeshed."
"I am only a boy, sir. I supposed there was nothing for me to do but to yield possession of the estate when my uncle showed me the letter."
"It was natural enough; and your uncle doubtless reckoned upon your inexperience and ignorance of the law."
"What would you advise me to do, sir?"
"Let me think."
The merchant leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and gave himself up to reflection. In the midst of his reverie the pompous servant entered, bringing a letter upon a silver salver.
"A letter, sar," he said.
"That will do. You can go, Augustus."
Mr. Newman glanced at the postmark, tore open the letter, read it with a frown, and then, as if he had suddenly formed a resolution, he said:
"This letter has helped me to a decision."
Hector regarded him with surprise. What could the letter have to do with him?
"Have you any objection to going out to California by the next steamer?" asked Mr. New-man.
"No, sir," answered Hector, with animation "Am I to go alone?"
CHAPTER XXXII. A WAYWARD YOUTH.
It is needless to say that Hector was very much surprised, not to say startled, at this sudden proposal. What could Mr. Newman possibly want him to go to California for? If on business, how did it happen that he trusted a mere boy with so responsible a mission?
The explanation came soon.
"No doubt, you are surprised," said the merchant, "at the proposal I have made you. I am not prepared myself to say that I am acting with good judgment. In making it, I have obeyed a sudden impulse, which is not always prudent. Yet, in more than one instance, I have found advantage in obeying such an impulse. But to my explanation. By the way, let me first ask you two or three questions. Have you any taste for any kind of liquor?"
"No, sir," answered Hector, promptly.
"Even if you had, do you think you would have self-control enough to avoid entering saloons and gratifying your tastes?"
"That is well. Do you play pool?"
"No, sir," answered Hector, wondering whither all these questions tended.
"I ask because playing pool in public rooms paves the way for intemperance, as bars are generally connected with such establishments."
"I don't even know how to play pool, sir," said Hector.
"Do you ever bet or gamble?" continued the merchant.
"You will understand why I ask all these questions when I tell you that I have a nephew now nineteen years of age, who does all these things. He is not only my nephew, but my ward. I have a moderate sum of money in my charge which belongs to him—enough, if he were a young man of correct habits, to buy him an interest in a respectable business. That use I had proposed to make of it when he reached twenty-one, or rather, to recommend to him, but for his yielding to temptation in more than one form, and, finally, running away from my protection."
"Where is he now, sir?"
"In California. Three months since he disappeared, and it was some weeks before I learned where he had gone. As I do not intend to conceal anything from you, I must tell you that he carried with him five hundred dollars purloined from my desk. This grieved me most of all. I wrote out to a mercantile friend in San Francisco, who knows the boy by sight, to hunt him up, and see if he could do anything for him. He writes me—this is the letter I hold in my hand—that he has seen Gregory, and expostulated with him, but apparently without effect. The boy has pretty much run through his money, and will soon be in need. I do not intend, however, to send him money, for he would misuse it. I don't think it will do him any harm to suffer a little privation, as a fitting punishment for his wayward courses. I would not wish him to suffer too much, and I am anxious lest he should go further astray. I now come to the explanation of my proposal to you. I wish you to go to California, to seek out Gregory, obtain his confidence, and then persuade him to give up his bad course, and come home with you, prepared to lead a worthier life. Are you willing to undertake it?"
"Yes, sir," answered Hector. "I will undertake it, since you are willing to place such a responsibility upon me. I will do my best to accomplish what you desire, but I may fail."
"In that case I will not blame you," answered the merchant.
"What sort of a boy is Gregory? Shall I find it difficult to gain his confidence?"
"No; he is a youth of very amiable disposition—indeed, he was generally popular among his companions and associates, but he is morally weak, and finds it difficult to cope with temptation. I believe that a boy like you will stand a better chance of influencing him than a man of mature age."
"I will do my best, sir."
"One thing more. You may assure Gregory that I forgive him the theft of my money, though it gave me great pain to find him capable of such an act, and that I am prepared to receive him back into my favor if he will show himself worthy of it. I will give you a letter to that effect. Now, when will you be ready to start?"
"By the next steamer."
"That is well."
CHAPTER XXXIII. MR. ROSCOE MAKES A DISCOVERY.
The California steamer was to start in two days. This gave Hector but little time for preparation, but then he had but scanty preparation to make. Mr. Ross and Walter were naturally surprised at the confidence placed in Hector by a stranger, but were inclined to think that our hero would prove himself worthy of it.
"Don't be gone long, Hector," said Walter. "I shall miss you. I depended upon having your company for a good while yet."
"Come back to my house, Hector," said Mr. Ross, cordially, "when you return, whether you are successful or not. Consider it a home where you are always welcome."
"Thank you, sir," said Hector, gratefully. "I wish you were my uncle instead of Mr. Allan Roscoe."
"By the way, Hector, take time, while you are in California, to go to Sacramento to see if you can learn anything of your early history. It is most important to you, and I'm sure Mr. Newman will not object."
"He has already suggested it to me," said Hector. "Moreover, he has given me the name of the minister who baptized me, and, should he be dead or removed, he has given me the name of another person—a lady—with whom my father boarded during his residence in Sacramento."
"It is to be hoped that one or the other of these persons may still be living. It will afford me sincere pleasure if, by reliable testimony, you can defeat the wicked conspiracy into which Mr. Roscoe has entered, with the object of defrauding you of your inheritance."
Hector's ticket was purchased by Mr. Newman, and he was provided with a considerable sum of money as well as an order upon a bank in San Francisco for as much more as he might need.
"You are trusting me to an unusual extent, Mr. Newman," said Hector.
"That is true, but I have no hesitation in doing so. I am a close observer, and, though I have seen but little of you, I have seen enough to inspire me with confidence."
"I hope I shall deserve it, sir."
"That depends upon yourself, so far as integrity and fidelity go. Whether you succeed or not in your undertaking depends partly upon circumstances."
My young readers may wonder how Hector would be expected to recognize a young man whom he had never seen. He was provided with a photograph of Gregory, which had been taken but six months before, and which, as Mr. Newman assured him, bore a strong resemblance to his nephew.
"He may have changed his name," he said, "but he cannot change his face. With this picture you will be able to identify him."
The great steamer started on her long voyage. Walter and Mr. Crabb stood on the pier and watched it till Hector's face was no longer distinguishable for the distance, and then went home, each feeling that he had sustained a loss.
Among those who watched the departure of the steamer was a person who escaped Hector's notice, for he arrived just too late to bid good-by to an acquaintance who was a passenger on board.
This person was no other than Allan Roscoe.
When he recognized Hector's face among the passengers he started in surprise and alarm.
"Hector Roscoe going to California!" he inwardly ejaculated. "What can be his object, and where did he raise money to go?"
Conscience whispered: "He has gone to ferret out the fraud which you have practiced upon him, and his mission is fraught with peril to you."
Allan Roscoe returned to his elegant home in a state of nervous agitation, which effectually prevented him from enjoying the luxuries he was now able to command. A sword seemed suspended over him, but he resolved not to give up the large stake for which he played so recklessly without a further effort.
By the next mail he wrote a confidential letter to an old acquaintance in San Francisco.
CHAPTER XXXIV. FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SAN FRANCISCO.
Hector was seasick for the first twenty-four hours, but at the end of that time he had become accustomed to the rise and fall of the billows, and was prepared to enjoy himself as well as he could in the confined quarters of an ocean steamer.
Of course, he made acquaintances. Among them was a clergyman, of middle age, who was attracted by our hero's frank countenance. They met on deck, and took together the "constitutional" which travelers on shipboard find essential for their health.
"You seem to be alone?" said the clergyman.
"Pardon me, but it is uncommon to meet one so young as yourself who is making so long a journey. I suppose, however, you have friends or relatives in California."
"No, sir; I know no one, to my knowledge, in the Golden State."
"Then, perhaps, you go out in search of employment?"
"No, sir; I go out on business."
"You are a young business man," said the clergyman, smiling.
"Perhaps I should rather say, on a mission. I am sent out, by a New York merchant, in search of his nephew, who is somewhere in San Francisco."
Hector explained himself further. The minister, Mr. Richards, listened with attention.
"Certainly," he said, "a great responsibility rests upon you. Mr. Newman must have great confidence in you."
"I hope he will not find it misplaced," answered Hector, modestly.
"It is certainly a compliment to you that a shrewd business man should consider you worthy of such confidence. The presumption is that he has good reason for his confidence. I think, my young friend, that you will enjoy your visit to our State."
"Then you reside there, sir?"
"Oh, yes. I went out twenty years since; in fact, just after I graduated from the theological school. I spent a year at the mines; but, at the end of that time, finding an opening in my profession, I accepted the charge of a church in Sacramento."
"In Sacramento?" exclaimed Hector, eagerly.
"Yes. Have you any associations with that city?"
"It is my birthplace, sir."
"Then you are not a stranger to California?"
"Yes, sir; I came away so early that I have no recollection of the place."
"What is your name?" asked the clergyman.
"Roscoe? The name sounds familiar to me," said the minister, thoughtfully.
"How long since you went to Sacramento, Mr. Richards?"
"I went there in 1855."
"And I was born there in 1856. My father and mother lived there for some time afterwards."
"It is probable that I met them, for Sacramento was a small place then. Shall you go there?"
"Yes, sir. I have a special reason for going—a reason most important to me."
As Mr. Richards naturally looked inquisitive, Hector confided in him further.
"You see, sir," he concluded, "that it is most important to me to ascertain whether I am really the son of the man whom I have always regarded as my father. If so, I am heir to a large fortune. If not, my uncle is the heir, and I certainly should not wish to disturb him in the enjoyment of what the law awards him."
"That is quite proper," said Mr. Richards. "In your investigation, it is quite possible that I may be able to help you materially, through my long residence and extensive acquaintance in Sacramento. When you come there, lose no time in calling upon me. Whatever help I can render you shall cheerfully be given."
"Thank you, sir."
"Shall you be much disappointed if you find that you are only the adopted, instead of the real, son of Mr. Roscoe?"
"Yes, sir; but it won't be chiefly on account of the property. I shall feel alone in the world, without relations or family connections, with no one to sympathize with me in my successes, or feel for me in my disappointments."
"I understand you, and I can enter into your feelings."
Arrived in San Francisco, Hector took lodgings at a comfortable hotel on Kearney Street. He didn't go to the Palace Hotel, or Baldwin's, though Mr. Newman had supplied him with ample funds, and instructed him to spend whatever he thought might be necessary.
"I mean to show myself worthy of his confidence," said Hector to himself.
He arrived in the evening, and was glad to remain quietly at the hotel the first evening, and sleep off the effects of his voyage. After the contracted stateroom, in which he had passed over twenty days, he enjoyed the comfort and luxury of a bed on shore and a good-sized bedroom. But, in the morning, he took a long walk, which was full of interest. Less than five minutes' walk from his hotel was the noted Chinese quarter. Curiously enough, it is located in the central part of the business portion of San Francisco. Set a stranger down in this portion of the city, and the traveler finds it easy to imagine himself in some Chinese city. All around him, thronging the sidewalks, he will see almond-eyed men, wearing long queues, and clad in the comfortable, but certainly not elegant, flowing garments which we meet only occasionally in our Eastern cities, on the person of some laundryman. Then the houses, too, with the curious names on the signs, speak of a far-off land. On every side, also, is heard the uncouth jargon of the Chinese tongue.
There is a part of San Francisco that is known as the Barbary Coast. It is that part which strangers will do well to avoid, for it is the haunt of the worst portion of the population. Here floats many a hopeless wreck, in the shape of a young man, who has yielded to the seductions of drink and the gaming table—who has lost all hope and ambition, and is fast nearing destruction.
If Hector allowed himself to explore this quarter, it was not because he found anything to attract him, for his tastes were healthy, but he thought, from the description of Gregory Newman, that he would stand a better chance of meeting him here than in a more respectable quarter.
Hector halted in front of a building, which he judged to be a gambling house. He did not care to enter, but he watched, with curiosity, those who entered and those who came out.
As he was standing there, a man of forty touched him on the shoulder.
Hector turned, and was by no means attracted by the man's countenance. He was evidently a confirmed inebriate, though not at that time under the influence of liquor. There was an expression of cunning, which repelled Hector, and he drew back.
"I say, boy," said the stranger, "do you want to go in?"
"If you do, I know the ropes, and I'll introduce you and take care of you."
"Thank you," said Hector, "but I don't care to go in."
"Are you afraid?" asked the man, with a slight sneer.
"Yes. Haven't I a reason?"
"Come, sonny, don't be foolish. Have you any money?"
"Give it to me and I'll play for you. I'll double it in ten minutes, and I'll only ask you five dollars for my services."
"Suppose you lose?"
"I won't lose," said the man, confidently. "Come," he said, in a wheedling tone, "let me make some money for you."
"Thank you, but I would rather not. I don't want to make money in any such way."
"You're a fool!" said the man, roughly, and with an air of disgust he left the spot, much to Hector's relief.
Still Hector lingered, expecting he hardly knew what, but it chanced that fortune favored him. He was just about to turn away, when a youth, two or three years older than himself in appearance, came out of the gambling house. He was pale, and looked as if he had kept late hours. He had the appearance, also, of one who indulges in drink.
When Hector's glance fell upon the face of the youth, he started in great excitement.
"Surely," he thought, "that must be Gregory Newman!"
CHAPTER XXXV. THE PRODIGAL.
As the best way of getting into communication with the youth whom he suspected to be the object of his search, Hector asked him the name of the street.
On receiving an answer, he said, in an explanatory way:
"I am a stranger here. I only arrived on the last steamer."
The other looked interested.
"Where do you come from?"
"From New York."
"I used to live there," said Gregory—for it was he—with a sigh.
"Have you bettered yourself by coming out here?" asked Hector.
Gregory shook his head.
"No," he said; "I begin to think I was a fool to come at all."
"Perhaps you had poor prospects in New York?" said Hector.
"No; my uncle is a rich merchant there. I have some property, also, and he is my guardian."
"Did he favor your coming?"
"No; he was very much opposed to it."
"Perhaps I ought not to take such a liberty, but I begin to agree with you about your being a fool to leave such prospects behind you."
"Oh, I am not offended. It is true enough."
"I suppose you haven't prospered, then," said Hector.
"Prospered? Look at me! Do you see how shabby I am?"
Gregory certainly did look shabby. His clothes were soiled and frayed, and he had the appearance of a young tramp.
"That isn't the worst of it," he added, bitterly. "I have spent my last cent, and am penniless."
"That is bad, certainly. Did you lose any of it in there?" said Hector, indicating the gaming house.
"I have lost full half of it there," answered Gregory. "This morning I found myself reduced to four bits—"
"To what?" inquired Hector, puzzled.
"Oh, I forgot you had just arrived. Four bits is fifty cents. Well, I was reduced to that, and, instead of saving it for my dinner, I went in there and risked it. If I had been lucky, I might have raised it to ten dollars, as a man next to me did; but I'm out of luck, and I don't know what to do."
"Why don't you go back to your uncle in New York?"
"What! and walk all the way without food?" said Gregory, bitterly.
"Of course you couldn't go without money. Suppose you had the money, would you go?"
"I should be afraid to try it," said Gregory, smiling.
"Why? Don't you think he would receive you back?"
"He might but for one thing," answered Gregory.
"What is that?"
"I may as well tell you, though I am ashamed to," said Gregory, reluctantly. "I left New York without his knowledge, and, as I knew he wouldn't advance me money out of my own property, I took five hundred dollars from his desk."
"That was bad," said Hector, quietly, but he didn't look shocked or terror-stricken, for this would probably have prevented any further confidence.
"It wasn't exactly stealing," said Gregory, apologetically, "for I knew he could keep back the money from my property. Still, he could represent it as such and have me arrested."
"I don't think he would do that."
"I don't want to run the risk. You see now why I don't dare to go back to New York. But what on earth I am to do here I don't know."
"Couldn't you get employment?" asked Hector, for he wished Gregory to understand his position fully.
"What! in this shabby suit? Respectable business men would take me for a hoodlum."
Hector knew already that a "hoodlum" in San Francisco parlance is a term applied to street loafers from fifteen to twenty-five years of age, who are disinclined to work and have a premature experience of vice.
"Suppose you were assured that your uncle would receive you back and give you another chance?"
Gregory shook his head.
"I don't believe he would, and I am afraid I don't deserve it. No, I must try to get to the mines in some way. How are you fixed?" said Gregory, turning suddenly to Hector. "Could you spare a five-dollar gold piece for a chap that's been unfortunate?"
"Perhaps I might; but I am afraid you would go back into the gambling house and lose it, as you did your other money."
"No, I won't; I promise you that. Four bits was nothing. Five dollars would give me a chance of going somewhere where I could earn a living."
Gregory seemed to speak sincerely, and Hector thought it would do him no harm to reveal himself and his errand.
"Your name is Gregory Newman, isn't it?" he inquired.
Gregory stared at him in uncontrollable amazement.
"How do you know that?" he inquired.
"And your uncle's name is Titus Newman?"
"He lives on Madison Avenue, does he not?"
"Yes, yes; but who are you that seem to know so much about me?"
"My name is Hector Roscoe."
"Did I know you in New York?"
"No; I never met you, to my knowledge."
"Then how do you recognize me and know my name?"
In answer, Hector took from his pocket a photograph of Gregory and displayed it.
"How did you come by that?" asked Gregory, hurriedly. "Are you a detective?"
Gregory looked so startled that Hector had hard work not to laugh. It seemed ludicrous to him that he should be supposed to be a detective on Gregory's track, as the boy evidently suspected.
"No," he answered, "I am not a detective, but a friend. I have come out to San Francisco especially to find you."
"You won't inform against me?" asked Gregory, nervously.
"Not at all. I come as a friend, with a message from your uncle—-"
"What is it?" asked Gregory, eagerly.
"He wants you to come back to New York, and he will give you another chance."
"Is this true?"
"Yes; will you come?"
"I shall be glad to leave San Francisco," said Gregory, fervently. "I have had no luck since I arrived here."
"Do you think you deserved any?" said Hector, significantly.
"No, perhaps not," Gregory admitted.
"When will you be ready to return?"
"You forget that I have no money."
"I have, and will pay your passage."
Gregory grasped the hands of our hero gratefully.
"You are a trump!" said he.
Then he looked at his wretched and dilapidated suit.
"I don't like to go home like this," he said. "I should be mortified if I met my uncle or any of my old acquaintances."
"Oh, that can be remedied," said Hector. "If you can lead the way to a good clothing house, where the prices are moderate, I will soon improve your appearance."
"That I will!" answered Gregory, gladly.
Within five minutes' walk was a good clothing house, on Kearney Street. The two entered, and a suit was soon found to fit Gregory. Then they obtained a supply of underclothing, and Gregory breathed a sigh of satisfaction. His self-respect returned, and he felt once more like his old self.
"Now," said Hector, "I shall take you to my hotel, and enter your name as a guest. You and I can room together."
"Do you know," said Gregory, "I almost fear this is a dream, and that I shall wake up again a tramp, as you found me half an hour ago? I was almost in despair when you met me."
Though Gregory seemed quite in earnest in his desire to turn over a new leaf, Hector thought it prudent to keep the funds necessary for their journey in his own possession. He gave a few dollars to Gregory as spending money, but disregarded any hints looking to a further advance.
CHAPTER XXXVI. HOW HECTOR SUCCEEDED IN SACRAMENTO.
Now that Hector had succeeded in the main object of his journey, he had time to think of his own affairs. It was most important for him to visit Sacramento and make inquiries into the matter that so nearly concerned him.
"I must find out," he said to himself, "whether I am entitled to the name I bear, or whether I only received it by adoption."
The second day after his discovery of Gregory Newman, he said to him:
"Gregory, business of importance calls me to Sacramento. Do you wish to go with me?"
"Does the business in any way relate to me?" asked Gregory.
"Not at all."
"Then I prefer to remain in San Francisco."
"Can I trust you not to fall back into your old ways?" asked Hector.
"Yes; I have had enough of them," answered Gregory, and there was a sincerity in his tone which convinced Hector that he might safely leave him.
"I shall probably stay overnight," he said. "If I stay any longer, I will telegraph to you."
Arrived in Sacramento, Hector sought out the residence of the Rev. Mr. Richards, whose acquaintance he had made on board the steamer.
His clerical friend received him with evident pleasure.
"How have you fared, my young friend?" he asked.
"Very well, sir. I have succeeded in my mission."
"Then you have found the youth you were in search of?"
"Yes, sir; moreover, I have induced him to return home with me, and turn over a new leaf."
"That is indeed good news. And now, I think I have also good news for you."
"Please let me know it, sir," said Hector, eagerly.
"I have found the lady with whom your father and mother boarded while they were in Sacramento."
"What does she say?"
"She says," answered Mr. Richards, promptly, "that you are Mr. Roscoe's own son, and were born in her house."
"Thank Heaven!" ejaculated Hector.
"Nor is this all. I have found the minister who baptized you. He is still living, at a very advanced age—the Rev. Mr. Barnard. I called upon him, and recalled his attention to the period when your father lived in the city. I found that he remembered both your parents very well. Not only that, but he has a very full diary covering that time, in which he showed me this record:
"'Baptized, June 17th, Hector, the son of Thomas and Martha Roscoe; a bright, healthy child, in whom the parents much delight."
"Then it seems to me," said Hector, "that my case is a very strong one."
"Unusually so. In fact, it could not be stronger. I marvel how Allan Roscoe, your uncle, could have ventured upon a fraud which could be so easily proved to be such."
"He depended upon Sacramento being so far away," said Hector. "He thought I would accept my father's letter without question."
"That letter was undoubtedly forged," said the minister.
"It must have been, but it was very cleverly forged. The handwriting was a very close copy of my father's." It was a great pleasure to Hector that he could say "my father" without a moment's doubt that he was entitled to say so.
"He thought, also, that you would not have the means to come here to investigate for yourself," said Mr. Richards.
"Yes, and he would have been right but for the commission Mr. Newman gave me. What course would you advise me to take," asked Hector, a little later, "to substantiate my claim?"
"Get Mrs. Blodgett's and Rev. Mr. Barnard's sworn affidavits, and place them in the hands of a reliable lawyer, requesting him to communicate with your uncle."
This advice seemed to Hector to be wise, and he followed it. Fortunately, he had no difficulty in inducing both parties to accede to his request. The next day he returned to San Francisco.
CHAPTER XXXVII. A NARROW ESCAPE.
Armed with the affidavits which were to restore to him the position in life of which his uncle had wickedly deprived him, Hector returned to San Francisco. He found Gregory unaffectedly glad to see him.
"Glad to see you back, Hector," he said; "I missed you."
Hector was glad to find that Gregory had not taken advantage of his absence to indulge in any of his old excesses. He began to hope that he had already turned over the new leaf which was so desirable.
"I know what you are thinking of," said Gregory, after Hector had returned his salutation. "You are wondering whether I 'cut up' any while you were gone."
"You don't look as if you had," said Hector, smiling.
"No; I have had enough of sowing wild oats. It doesn't pay. Shall I tell you what I did last evening?"
"If you like."
"I attended a lecture illustrated with the stereopticon. I was in bed at ten."
"Gregory," said Hector, taking his hand, "you don't know how glad I am to hear this. I am sure your uncle will be delighted when you return to him so changed."
"I've made a great fool of myself," said Gregory, candidly. "Hereafter I am going to make you my model."
Hector blushed deeply, for he was a modest boy.
"You compliment me too much, Gregory," he said. "Still, if you are in earnest, I will try to set you a good example."
"You won't have any trouble in doing that. You are one of the fellows that find it easy to be good."
"I am not sure of that, Gregory. Still, I mean to do my best."
In the evening the two boys attended a theatrical performance. It was not till after eleven o'clock that they emerged from the theatre, and slowly, not by the most direct way, sauntered home.
There was no thought of danger in the mind of either, yet, as a fact, Hector had never in his life been exposed to peril so serious as that evening. Lurking behind in the shadow a shabby-looking man followed the two boys, keeping his eyes steadily on Hector. At a place specially favorable, our hero was startled by hearing a bullet whiz by his ear. He turned instantly, and so did Gregory. They saw a man running, and they pursued him. They might not have caught up with him, but that he stumbled and fell. Instantly they were upon him.
"Well," he said, sullenly, "you've caught me after all."
"Were you the man who fired at me?" asked Hector, "or was it my friend here you sought to kill?"
"I was firing at you," answered their captive, coolly. "Now, what are you going to do with me?"
"Was this forced upon you by want? Did you wish to rob me?"
"No; I had another motive."
"What was it?"
"If I tell you, will you let me go free?"
The man proceeded, speaking with emphasis.
"If I tell you who put me up to this, and furnish you proofs so that you can bring it to him, will you let me go?"
"You will not renew the attempt?" asked Hector.
"No," answered the man; "it isn't likely; I shall have no further motive."
"Yes, I agree."
"Read that letter, then."
"There isn't light enough. Will you accompany me to the hotel, where I can read it?"
The three walked together to the hotel, where Hector and Gregory were staying. There Hector read the letter. He was astonished and horrified when he discovered that it was from his uncle to this man, with whom he seemed to have an acquaintance, describing Hector, and promising him a thousand dollars if he would put him out of the way.
"This is very important," said Hector, gravely. "Are you ready to accompany me to New York and swear to this?"
"Yes, if you will pay my expenses."
By the next steamer Hector, Gregory and the stranger, who called himself Reuben Pearce, sailed for New York.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. CONCLUSION.
Allan Roscoe sat at the breakfast table with Guy opposite him. Though Mr. Roscoe was not altogether free from anxiety since he had learned of Hector's expedition to California, he had taught himself to believe that there was little chance of the boy's ferreting out the imposition he had practiced upon him. He had been a poor and struggling man most of his life, having, when quite a young man, squandered his inheritance, and his present taste of affluence was most agreeable. He felt that he could not part with Castle Roscoe.
"But I am safe enough," he said to himself; "even if Hector discovered anything, something might happen to him, so that he might be unable to return."
"Father," said Guy, who had just dispatched an egg, "I want ten dollars this morning."
"Ten dollars!" said his father, frowning. "How is this? Did I not give you your week's allowance two days since?"
"Well, I've spent it," answered Guy, "and I need some more."
"You must think I am made of money," said his father, displeased.
"It's pretty much so," said Guy, nonchalantly. "Your income must be ten thousand a year."
"I have a great many expenses. How have you spent your allowance?"
"Oh, I can't tell exactly. It's gone, at any rate. You mustn't become mean, father."
"Mean! Don't I give you a handsome allowance? Look here, Guy, I can't allow such extravagance on your part. This once I'll give you five dollars, but hereafter, you must keep within your allowance."
"Can't you make it ten?"
"No, I can't," said his father, shortly.
Guy rose from the table, and left the room, whistling.
"The old man's getting mean," he said. "If he doesn't allow me more, I shall have to get in debt."
As Guy left the room, the mail was brought in. On one of the envelopes, Mr. Roscoe saw the name of his lawyer. He did not think much of it, supposing it related to some minor matter of business. The letter ran thus:
"ALLAN ROSCOE, ESQ.:
"DEAR SIR: Be kind enough to come up to the city at once. Business of great importance demands your attention.
"Yours respectfully, TIMOTHY TAPE."
"Mr. Tape is unusually mysterious," said Allan Roscoe to himself, shrugging his shoulders. "I will go up to-day. I have nothing to keep me at home."
Mr. Roscoe ordered the carriage, and drove to the depot. Guy, noticing his departure, asked permission to accompany him.
"Not to-day, Guy," he answered. "I am merely going up to see my lawyer."
Two hours later Mr. Roscoe entered the office of his lawyer.
"Well, Tape, what's up?" he asked, in an easy tone. "Your letter was mysterious."
"I didn't like to write explicitly," said Mr. Tape, gravely.
"The matter, you say, is of great importance?"
"It is, indeed! It is no less than a claim for the whole of your late brother's estate."
"Who is the claimant?" asked Allan Roscoe, perturbed.
"Your nephew, Hector."
"I have no nephew Hector. The boy called Hector Roscoe is an adopted son of my brother."
"I know you so stated. He says he is prepared to prove that he is the lawful son of the late Mr. Roscoe."
"He can't prove it!" said Allan Roscoe, turning pale.
"He has brought positive proof from California, so he says."
"Has he, then, returned?" asked Allan, his heart sinking.
"He is in the city, and expects us to meet him at two o'clock this afternoon, at the office of his lawyer, Mr. Parchment."
Now, Mr. Parchment was one of the most celebrated lawyers at the New York bar, and the fact that Hector had secured his services showed Allan Roscoe that the matter was indeed serious.
"How could he afford to retain so eminent a lawyer?" asked Allan Roscoe, nervously.
"Titus Newman, the millionaire merchant, backs him."
"Do you think there is anything in his case?" asked Allan, slowly.
"I can tell better after our interview at two o'clock."
At five minutes to two Allan Roscoe and Mr. Tape were ushered into the private office of Mr. Parchment.
"Glad to see you, gentlemen," said the great lawyer, with his usual courtesy.
Two minutes later Hector entered, accompanied by Mr. Newman. Hector nodded coldly to his uncle. He was not of a vindictive nature, but he could not forget that this man, his own near relative, had not only deprived him of his property, but conspired against his life.
"Hector," said Allan Roscoe, assuming a confidence he did not feel, "I am amazed at your preposterous claim upon the property my brother left to me. This is a poor return for his kindness to one who had no claim upon him."
"Mr. Parchment will speak for me," said Hector, briefly.
"My young client," said the great lawyer, "claims to be the son of the deceased Mr. Roscoe, and, of course, in that capacity, succeeds to his father's estate."
"It is one thing to make the claim, and another to substantiate it," sneered Allan Roscoe.
"Precisely so, Mr. Roscoe," said Mr. Parchment. "We quite agree with you. Shall I tell you and your learned counsel what we are prepared to prove?"
Mr. Roscoe nodded uneasily.
"We have the affidavits of the lady with whom your brother boarded in Sacramento, and in whose house my young client was born. We have, furthermore, the sworn testimony of the clergyman, still living, who baptized him, and we can show, though it is needless, in the face of such strong proof, that he was always spoken of in his infancy by Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe as their child."
"And I have my brother's letter stating that he was only adopted," asserted Allan Roscoe.
"Even that, admitting it to be genuine," said Mr. Parchment, "cannot disprove the evidence I have already alluded to. If you insist upon it, however, we will submit the letter to an expert, and—"
"This is a conspiracy. I won't give up the estate," said Allan, passionately.
"We also claim that there is a conspiracy," said Mr. Parchment, smoothly, "and there is one circumstance that will go far to confirm it."
"What is that?" demanded Allan Roscoe.
"It is the attempt made upon my young client's life in San Francisco by an agent of yours, Mr. Roscoe."
"It is a lie!" said Allan, hoarsely, shaking, nevertheless, with fear.
At a sign from Mr. Parchment, Hector opened the door of the office to give admission to Reuben Pearce.
At a sight of this man Allan Roscoe utterly collapsed. He felt that all was lost!
"Gentlemen," he said, "I will give up the estate, but for Heaven's sake, don't prosecute me for this!"
There was an informal conference, in which it was agreed that Allan Roscoe should make no resistance to Hector's claim, but restore the estate to him. Hector promised, though this was against his lawyer's advice, to give his uncle, who would be left penniless, the sum of two thousand dollars in cash, and an allowance of a hundred dollars per month for his life. He appointed Mr. Newman his guardian, being a minor, and was once more a boy of fortune. He resolved to continue his studies, and in due time go to college, thus preparing himself for the high position he would hereafter hold.