"Why not? Are you afraid I will upset you?"
"No," answered Herbert; "I have confidence in your skill. Besides, I can swim."
"What is your objection, then?" "If the boat belonged to anyone but James Leech I would not mind."
"Why should you mind that?"
"I met him last evening and he told me not to get into his boat again. He said he was perfectly willing you should use it, but he didn't choose to have me."
"It appears that I am a greater favorite with James Leech than you are," said Cameron, smiling.
"He looks down upon me as a poor boy."
"Well, I suppose James is entitled to his prejudice; but if you can't use the boat, I won't."
"Don't let that interfere with your pleasure, Mr. Cameron," said Herbert, eagerly. "I don't trouble myself in the least about the way James treats me."
"Let us go down to the pond, at any rate. We can sit down on the bank, if nothing better." "All right."
An easy walk brought them to the edge of the pond. Herbert naturally looked for James Leech's boat. He thought something was the matter with his eyes, for where there should be but one boat there were now two.
"Why, there's another boat!" he exclaimed.
"Is there?" asked Cameron, indifferently.
"Yes, don't you see it?"
"Well, it does look like a boat, I admit. I should say it was nicer than the other."
"I should say it was. Isn't she a regular beauty?" exclaimed Herbert, enthusiastically. "I wonder whose it is? James wouldn't want two."
There was a smile on Cameron's face that attracted Herbert's attention.
"Is it yours?" he asked.
"No; I know who owns it, though."
"It isn't the landlord, is it?"
"Then I can't imagine whose it is," said Herbert.
"No," said Herbert. "Will you tell me?"
"It is yours!"
"Mine!" exclaimed our hero, in the utmost surprise,
"Yes; I intended at first not to give it to you till I went away; but I may as well give it now, on one condition—that you let me use it whenever I please."
"How kind you are!" said Herbert, gratefully. "I never received such a splendid present in my life. I have done nothing to deserve it,"
"Let me be the judge of that. Now, with your consent, we will try her."
With the utmost alacrity Herbert followed Cameron aboard the new craft, and took the oars. Smoothly and easily the boat glided off on the surface of the pond.
"I like it much better than James'," said Herbert.
"It's a better model. His is rather clumsy. Besides, this is new and he must have had his for some time."
"He has had it three years."
"It needs painting."
"Even if it were painted it wouldn't come up to this."
"I agree with you," said Cameron. "I am afraid James will be stirred with envy when he sees your boat."
"I am afraid so, too. He won't believe it is mine."
"It may be your duty, out of a delicate regard to his feelings, to give it up, or exchange," suggested Cameron.
"That's a little further than I carry my delicate regard to his feelings," responded Herbert.
After half an hour's rowing, Cameron said, suddenly: "I must go back to the hotel. I came near forgetting an important letter, which must be sent off by this afternoon's mail."
Herbert was a little disappointed, still he said, cheerfully: "All right, Mr. Cameron."
"Don't you cease your rowing," said the collegian.
"I thought you might not like to walk back alone."
"I don't mind that. I shall hurry back, and should be poor company. We will meet to-morrow morning."
Cameron set out on his return home. He had gone less than quarter of a mile when he met James Leech.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Cameron," said James, who was always polite to the rich manufacturer's son.
"Good afternoon, James."
"Won't you go out in my boat, Mr. Cameron?"
"Thank you, I have just returned from the pond. I am obliged to go back to the hotel to write a letter."
"I should have been glad of your company."
"You won't be alone," said Cameron, mischievously. "I left Herbert Carter at the pond."
"Was he out in the boat?" asked James, hastily.
Without a word James walked abruptly away. He was very angry with Herbert, who, he naturally concluded, was out in his boat.
"He's the most impudent and cheeky boy I ever met!" he said to himself. "Last evening, I positively forbade his getting into my boat and he don't take the slightest notice of it. He needn't think he can take such liberties."
Cameron smiled, as he read James' feelings in his face.
Just before reaching the pond there was rising ground, from which James could take a general survey of the lake. Herbert was cruising about and had not yet seen James.
"He don't think I'm so near," thought James. "He thinks I won't know anything about his impudence. I'll soon make him draw in his horns."
In his excitement, James did not notice the boat particularly. If he had he would have seen that it was not his boat. But, so far as he knew, there was no other boat on the pond. Indeed, there was no boy whose father could afford to buy him one, and James had come to think himself sole proprietor of the pond, as well as of the only craft that plied on its surface.
"I wonder," he thought, "whether I couldn't have Herbert fined for taking my property without leave, especially after I have expressly forbidden him to do it. I must ask my father this evening. It would bring down his pride a little to be taken before a justice."
Herbert had got tired of cruising, and made a vigorous stroke, as if to cross the pond. James put up his hand to his mouth and shouted at the top of his voice: "Come right back, Herbert Carter!"
THE RIVAL BOATMEN
Herbert, bending over his oars, heard the peremptory order of James to come back and smiled to himself as he instantly comprehended the mistake which the latter had made. From James' standpoint his own boat was not visible and it was not surprising that he should suspect our hero of having appropriated his boat.
"I won't undeceive him" he thought.
"What do you want?" he asked, resting on his oars, and looking back at James.
"You know what I want," said James, provoked.
"How should I know?"
"I want you to come right back, at once."
"What's happened? What am I wanted for?"
"You'll be wanted by the constable."
"I don't understand you," said Herbert, shrugging his shoulders. "You appear to be mad about something."
"So I am, and I have a right to be."
"Well, I'm sure I have no objection, if you like it."
James was pale with rage.
"Bring that boat right back here," he said.
"If you'll give me a good reason, perhaps I will; but I don't think it necessary to obey you without."
"You are a thief."
"Say that again," said Herbert, sternly, "and I will come ashore and give you a whipping."
"You can't do it."
"I can try."
"Don't you know I can have you arrested for stealing my boat, you loafer?"
"Who's been stealing your boat, you loafer?"
"Are you sure of it?"
"Why, you are in my boat this very minute."
"I think you are mistaken," said Herbert, quietly.
"Don't you call that a boat you are in?"
"Yes, I do; but there's more than one boat in the world, and this isn't your boat."
He rowed near the shore as he spoke, and James, his attention drawn to the boat, saw that it wasn't his. At the same time, walking nearer the edge of the pond, he caught sight of his own boat moored at its usual place.
"I guess I made a mistake," said James.
"I think you have," returned Herbert, quietly.
"Where did that boat come from?" demanded James.
"I don't know."
"You don't? Then you've taken it without leave."
"Oh, the owner won't object to my using it," said Herbert, with a queer smile.
"How do you know?"
"He's an intimate friend of mine."
"I suppose it belongs to Mr. Cameron, then?"
"He bought it."
"Do you call him your intimate friend? He'd be proud if he heard it," said James, with a sneer.
"Would he?" said Herbert.
"I should think he would, considering your high position in society."
"I think he's a pretty good friend of mine but I have never called him an intimate friend."
"Yes, you have. You said the owner of that boat was an intimate friend of yours."
"So he is. I'm with him all the time."
"Then why do you deny that you called Mr. Cameron your intimate friend?"
"Because Mr. Cameron doesn't own the boat."
"Just now you said he bought it."
"So he did, but he doesn't own it."
"Then who does?"
"I do," was the unexpected reply.
"You—own—that—boat?" ejaculated James.
"Did Mr. Cameron give it to you?"
"I don't believe it. That boat must have cost sixty or seventy dollars. I don't believe he would give you such a present as that."
"I don't know as it makes much difference."
"When did he give it to you?"
"This afternoon. I'll row in. Perhaps you would like to examine it." James surveyed with envious eyes the neat, graceful boat, for he saw at a glance that his own boat, even when new, was by no means its equal.
"Isn't it a beauty?" asked Herbert, not without pride.
"Very fair," answered James, condescendingly. "Did you ask Mr. Cameron to give it to you?"
"I never ask for gifts," said Herbert, with emphasis. "What makes you ask such a question as that?"
"I thought it queer that he should have given you such a handsome present."
"It was certainly very generous in him," said Herbert.
"I shouldn't think you'd want to accept it, though."
"Because you are a poor boy and it don't correspond with your position."
"Perhaps not; but that don't trouble me."
"A less expensive boat would have been more appropriate."
"Perhaps it would; but you wouldn't have me refuse it on that account?"
James did not answer and Herbert asked: "Are you going out in your boat this afternoon?"
"I should like to try yours," said James.
"I shall be glad to have you," said Herbert, politely.
"And you may take mine," said James, with unwonted politeness.
The two boys got into the boats and pulled out. James was charmed with the new boat. In every way it was superior to his own boat, apart from its being newer. It was certainly very provoking to think that a boy like Herbert Carter, poor almost to beggary, should own such a beautiful little boat, while he, a rich man's son, had to put up with an inferior one.
"I say, Herbert," he began, when they returned, "don't you want to exchange your boat for mine?"
"Not much; I should be a fool to do that."
"I don't mean even, for I know your boat is better. I'll give you five dollars to boot."
"No, thank you; there's a good deal more than five dollars' difference between your boat and mine."
"Five dollars would come handy to a poor boy like you," said James, in his usual tone of insolent condescension.
"I don't want it enough to exchange boats."
"Well, I'll give you ten dollars," said James. "That's an offer worth thinking about."
"I shan't need to think about it. I say no."
"You've got an extravagant idea of your boat. Mine is nearly as good but I've taken a fancy to yours. How will you trade, anyway?"
"I don't feel at liberty to trade at all. Mr. Cameron gave me the boat, but he is to have the use of it while he is here. He wouldn't be willing to have me exchange."
"He can have the use of it all the same if it is mine."
"It won't do, James," said Herbert, shaking his head.
"You are very foolish, then," said James, disappointed.
"I may be, but that is my answer."
James walked away. He made up his mind, since he could not have Herbert's boat, to tease his father to buy him a new one. As to rowing in an inferior one, his pride would not permit it.
James broached the subject which was uppermost in his mind as soon as he got home.
"I wish you'd buy me a new boat, father," he said.
"What's the matter with the boat you have now?"
"I don't want to be outdone by Herbert Carter." "I don't see how that can be."
"He's got a beautiful new boat, twice as handsome as mine ever was."
"He has!" exclaimed the squire, in amazement. "How can he have, without any money?"
"Mr. Cameron gave it to him."
"I don't believe it. Probably the boat belongs to Mr. Cameron and he has only let Herbert use it."
"No, Mr. Cameron gave it to him. Herbert told me."
"Perhaps he has not told the truth."
"He wouldn't tell a lie—that is, about that," said James, modifying his first assertion lest it might be a compliment. In reality he had implicit confidence in Herbert's word.
"You wouldn't want me to be rowing around in a poor boat, while that beggar has a new one," said James, artfully appealing to his father's pride.
"Well, the fact is, my son," said the squire, rather embarrassed, "it would not be convenient for me to buy you a new boat just now."
"Why not, father? I thought you had plenty of money."
"So I have; but I have made some investments under the advice of Mr. Temple. If you can arrange to exchange boats by paying a little to boot, you may do so."
"I have proposed it, but Herbert is very stiff about it."
"Humph!" said the squire, clearing his throat; "I think you will have to wait a while."
"How long?" asked James, dissatisfied.
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said his father, "If things go well, I expect to make a good deal of money within twelve months. Instead of a rowboat, I'll buy you a beautiful little sailboat next season."
"Will you?" exclaimed James, delighted.
"Yes; won't that be much better?"
"You are right, father."
Certainly a sailboat would be far better and there was very little chance of Herbert's having one given him. So James went cut rowing contentedly the next afternoon, although Herbert was out also in the new boat.
"Your boat is better than mine," said James. "However, I am to have an elegant yacht next year."
"Are you?" said Herbert, interested.
"Father has promised to get me one. He would get me one this season but it would be some time before it could be got ready and I can have it the first thing next spring." "I congratulate you," said Herbert. "I should like a sailboat myself."
"I dare say you would," said James, pompously, "but of course you cannot expect to have one."
"I don't think there is much chance myself, unless somebody leaves me a fortune," said Herbert, good-naturedly. "I am satisfied with this boat."
"Of course it is more than a boy in your circumstances could expect."
Herbert smiled. He was used to references to his circumstances. James never allowed him to forget that he was a poor boy. He thought it hardly worth noticing.
"Shall we have a race?" he asked.
"Just as you say," said James.
James thought himself the better rower or he would not have consented to row across the pond.
"Are you ready?" asked Herbert.
"Give way, then."
Both bent to their oars and rowed their best. But it was not long before Herbert began to draw away from his antagonist. He had not had as much practice as James, but he was stronger in the arms, and had paid more attention to Cameron's instructions. He came in more than a dozen lengths ahead of his competitor.
"I've won the race, James," he said, with a smile.
"You ought to," said James, in a surly tone.
"I haven't had as much practice as you."
"What if you haven't? You've got a new boat, while mine is old and clumsy."
"If you think that makes any difference I'll row back with you, changing boats."
"Agreed," said James. But James brought up the rear at about the same distance.
"Beaten again," said Herbert, pleased with his success.
"There's nothing to crow about," said James, crossly. "Your boat is a good one but I'm not used to it."
"I am not much used to it myself. I only rowed in it yesterday for the first time."
"That's long enough to get the hang of it. There isn't much fun in rowing. I'd a good deal rather sail."
"I like both. There's more exercise in rowing."
"Don't you get exercise enough in hoeing potatoes?" asked James, with a sneer. "I shouldn't think laborers would need any extra exercise."
"There's some advantage in varying your exercise. There isn't much fun in hoeing."
"No, I should think not."
"Are you going in?" asked Herbert, noticing that James was proceeding to fasten his boat.
"Yes, I've got tired of the water."
Herbert was not to be alone, however, for just then Mr. Cameron appeared on the bank.
"I think I'll go out with you," he said.
"All right," said Herbert, with alacrity, as he rowed the boat to shore.
"Mr. Cameron," said our hero, "mother has asked me to invite you to take tea with us this evening."
"I shall be very glad to come," said Cameron.
"We live in humble style, you know," said Herbert, "but I told mother you wouldn't mind that."
"Thank you for saying so. I shall be very glad to meet your mother, and expect to enjoy myself better than at Squire Leech's table. It isn't the style, but the company. Why is James going away so soon?"
"I have beaten him in two races," said Herbert.
"I am not surprised to hear of your success. You are really gaining very fast."
"I am glad of it. I want to be a good rower."
"It is a good thing to do well anything you undertake, whether it be rowing or anything else."
"James thinks I don't need to row for exercise."
"He thinks I shall get enough exercise in hoeing potatoes," answered Herbert, with a smile.
"It wouldn't do him any harm to get exercise in the same way."
"The very idea would shock him."
MRS. CARTER'S GUEST
At five o'clock Mr. Cameron knocked at the door of Mrs. Carter's cottage. It was opened by Herbert himself.
"Walk in, Mr. Cameron," he said, cordially. "My mother is in the next room."
Mrs. Carter was prepossessed in favor of Cameron. In worldly advantages he was her superior; yet with the instinct of a gentleman he seemed unconscious of any such difference and did not exhibit the least trace of condescension, as many ill-bred persons might have.
"I have wanted to see you, Mrs. Carter," he said. "As the mother of my professor, the desire was only natural."
"Herbert tells me he has learned a good deal since he has been reading to you. He has often spoken of his good fortune in meeting you."
"I feel equally fortunate in meeting him. Not every boy of his age would adapt himself as readily and intelligently as he has."
"I am very glad if you find Herbert of service to you," said Mrs. Carter. "In all ways the engagement has been of advantage to him."
"Squire Leech was kind enough to offer me the services of his son, James," said Cameron, smiling.
"James would hardly have been willing to sacrifice so much of his time," said Herbert, "though he might be willing to try it for a day or two to supersede me."
"I think I shall have to worry along with my present professor," said Cameron, "and allow James to devote his superior talents to some other business."
The table was already spread in honor of the guest, and both Herbert and Mrs. Carter were gratified to find that the young collegian did ample justice to the meal.
"I feel almost ashamed of my appetite," said Cameron; "but the change from the stereotyped bill of fare at the hotel is pleasant and gives the food an increased relish."
"I am glad to hear you say so, Mr. Cameron; I could hardly expect to compete with the hotel in point of variety. Let me give you another cup of tea."
"Thank you. I don't often venture on a third cup, but I think I will make an exception to-night."
"Dr. Johnson sometimes got up to a dozen, I believe," said Herbert.
"He exceeded that number at times; but we must remember that the cups in his day barely contained a third as much as ours, so he was not so immoderate, after all. His excesses in eating were less pardonable."
"Was he a very large eater?" asked the widow.
"He actually gorged himself, if we are to believe the accounts that have come down to us," said Cameron. "I am afraid, Mrs. Carter, you would have found him a very unprofitable boarder."
"But," said Herbert; "there is one of Dr. Johnson's labors I shall not seek to imitate. I shall never attempt to write a dictionary."
"It must be a monotonous and wearisome labor. Besides, I don't think we could either of us improve upon Webster or Worcester."
They arose, and Mrs. Carter, who could not afford to keep a servant, herself cleared away the tea table.
"Herbert," said the young collegian, "you mentioned one day that your father was an inventor."
"He made one invention, but whether it will amount to anything, I don't know. He had high hopes of it, but died before he had any opportunity of testing its value."
"Will you show it to me?"
Herbert led Cameron upstairs into his own chamber, where, since his father's death, the work which had cost his father so many toilsome hours had been kept. Cameron examined it carefully. Herbert waited anxiously for his verdict. At length he spoke.
"As far as I am qualified to judge," he said, "your father's invention seems to embody an improvement. But you must not rely too much upon my opinion. My knowledge of the details of manufacturing is superficial. I should like to show it to my father."
"There is nothing that I would like better," said Herbert, "if you think he would be willing to examine it."
"He would be glad to do so. It is for his interest to examine anything which will facilitate the details of his business. I am intending to go home next Friday afternoon, and, with your permission, will carry this with me."
"I shall feel very much obliged to you if you will," said Herbert. "It may be worth nothing. I know it would have been my father's wish to have it examined by one who is qualified to judge."
"It is a pity your father could not have lived to enjoy the benefit of his invention, if it succeeds."
"He was a great loss to us," said Herbert. "There were but three of us, and he was at an age when we might hope to have him with us for a good many years yet. If I had been a few years older, I should have been better able to make up his loss to my mother."
"She is fortunate in having a son who is so willing to do his best for her," said Cameron, kindly. "We don't know what the future may have in store for us, Herbert; but you may rely upon my continued friendship."
Herbert pressed the hand of the young collegian warmly, for he knew that the offer of service was no empty compliment, but made in earnest sincerity.
The evening passed pleasantly and at nine o'clock Cameron took his leave. Herbert accompanied him as far as the hotel. He was walking leisurely back when he heard his name called and, turning, saw that it was James Leech who had accosted him.
"Where have you been, Carter?" inquired James; "been to see Mr. Cameron, I suppose? Doesn't he get enough of your company in the daytime?"
"You must ask him that. He has been taking tea at our house and I accompanied him home."
"He took supper at your house!"
"He seems very fond of keeping low company."
"What do you mean?" demanded Herbert, his eyes flashing with indignation at this insolence.
"I mean what I say," answered James, doggedly.
"Then I advise you hereafter to keep your impudence to yourself," retorted Herbert; "and for fear you may forget it, I give you this as a reminder."
An instant later James Leech found himself lying on his back on the sidewalk with Herbert bending over him.
He kept upon his feet, pale with rage and mortification.
"I'll be revenged upon you yet, you brute!" he shrieked, in his rage leaving our hero victor of the field.
"I wouldn't have touched him if he hadn't spoken against my mother," said Herbert.
A BITTER PILL
James Leech was furious at the humiliation. What he, a gentleman's son, to be knocked down and triumphed over by a boy who was compelled to work! Why, it was almost a sacrilege and no punishment could be too severe for such, flagrant outrage. How should he be revenged? First of all, he would get Herbert discharged from his present employment. Surely Mr. Cameron would not continue to avail himself of the services of a common bully. To attain this, he decided to reveal the matter to his father.
"That boy actually knocked you down!" exclaimed the squire. "But why did you permit him?"
"He took me by surprise," said James.
"And what did you do? Did you knock him over?"
"I would," said James, "but I didn't care to pursue him. I thought I would wait and tell you."
"And what do you want me to do?"
"To get Mr. Cameron to turn him off. I want him to starve," said James, bitterly.
"You express yourself too strongly, James; but, under the circumstances, I can't blame you much. The boy is evidently a ruffian."
"Yes, he is a ruffian and a brute, and I don't see what Mr. Cameron sees about him to like, I am sure."
"Probably the boy makes him think he is a model of excellence. Such boys are apt to be deceitful."
"He's deceitful enough. You'd think butter wouldn't melt in his mouth."
"I shall make such representations to Mr. Cameron as, I flatter myself, will dispose of the case of this young rascal and make him repent his brutal and unprovoked assault. I'll go over to-morrow forenoon to the hotel and speak to him on the subject," said the squire, pompously.
"Thank you, father. Put it as strong as you can."
"I will, you may be assured of that."
"If I can only get him turned off, I won't mind his hitting me," thought James. "I hope to see him in the penitentiary some day. It would do him good."
It so happened that Cameron had met Herbert in a walk he took before breakfast and had been informed of the occurrence of the evening previous.
"I don't know whether I ought to have struck James," said Herbert, in conclusion; "but when he called my mother and myself low, I couldn't help it."
"I am glad you did it," said the young collegian. "The boy is a disagreeable cub and deserves more than one lesson of that sort. Didn't he offer to hit you back?"
"So I supposed. I don't approve of fighting; but if he had shown a little courage to back his insolence, I should have despised him less. What will he do?"
"He will injure me, if he can," said Herbert.
"We will see what comes of it. Meanwhile, in this matter, you may count upon my support."
Herbert thanked his friend, not realizing how likely Cameron was to be called upon to redeem, his promise.
Shortly after breakfast, Cameron was told that Squire Leech wished to see him.
"Good-morning, Mr. Cameron," said the squire. "This is an early call."
"Not too early, sir," said the young collegian.
"The fact is, I have called on unpleasant business."
"Really, sir, I am sorry to hear it."
"It is about the Carter boy who is in your employ."
"By the Carter boy, you mean my young friend, Herbert Carter, I suppose," said Cameron, significantly.
"Of course if you choose to regard him as a friend."
"I certainly do."
"I don't think you will look upon him in that light when you hear that last evening he brutally assaulted my son James, without provocation, in the village street, taking him by surprise and knocking him over."
Cameron did not seem as much shocked as the squire anticipated. He took the revelation very coolly.
"You say he did this without provocation?"
"Yes, Mr. Cameron."
"Did James tell you this?"
"He did; and he is a boy of truth."
"But perhaps he did not look upon it as a provocation when he called Herbert and his mother low."
"He didn't say anything about that."
"I dare say not."
"And even if he did use the word, it would not justify Carter in brutally assaulting him."
"I confess I don't agree with you there, Squire Leech. I hate brutality as much as anyone and an unprovoked assault I certainly look upon as brutal. But for a boy to resent an insult directed against his mother is quite a different matter, and if Herbert had not acted as he did, I should have been ashamed of him."
Squire Leech flushed all over his face. This certainly was plain speaking.
"You have probably been misled by Carter's statement. I don't believe my boy did anything, or said anything, that Carter had a right to complain of."
"From what I have observed of your son, I regret to differ with you."
"You are prejudiced against James."
"I was not to begin with; but what I have seen of him, certainly, has not prepossessed me in his favor. He seems disposed to be insolent to those whom he fancies beneath him in social position."
"If you refer to the Carter boy," said the squire, pompously, "I should say that James is right in regarding him as a social inferior."
"I won't argue that point, or consider how far the possession of money, which is certainly the only point in which Herbert is inferior, justifies your son in looking down upon him. I will only say that he has no right to insult his social inferiors."
The discussion had assumed such a different character from what the squire anticipated, that he found it difficult to come to the request he had in view. But he did it.
"I am certainly astonished, Mr. Cameron, to find you so prejudiced against my son. If you should find you had done him an injustice, and that the Carter boy was really the aggressor last evening, will you be willing to discharge him from your employment?"
"If I find Herbert justifies your denunciations and his assault was unprovoked, I will discharge him."
"Then you can do it at once. You have my son's word for it."
"And I have Herbert's word for the contrary."
"Between the two, I believe James."
"Does James deny that he called Herbert and his mother low?"
"I have not asked him."
"If you will do so and bring me his assurance that he said nothing of the kind, I will examine Herbert again and try to get at the truth."
"Very well; I will put the question to him."
Squire Leech did so on his return home.
"I don't know but I called him something of the kind," James admitted; "but it's true, isn't it?"
"As to that, the boy certainly acted in a very low manner. But you shouldn't have called him so."
"I couldn't help it, when I heard him boasting of Mr. Cameron's having taken supper at his house. Won't Cameron discharge him?"
"No," said the squire, shortly; "he is infatuated about; that boy."
"Suppose we cut both of them?"
"It won't do, James. Mr. Cameron's father is a wealthy manufacturer— much richer than I am. We must keep on good terms with him, but we needn't notice the Carter boy. Some day he and his mother will be in my power."
"I hope so, father. I want to bring him to his knees, the proud beggar!"
It was a bitter pill for James to swallow, seeing his rival high in the favor of the young collegian.
OUT OF WORK AGAIN
Mr. Cameron went home on Friday afternoon.
"I shall be back Monday night," he said to Herbert.
But Monday night did not bring him. Herbert didn't think much of it, however, as it was easy to imagine that some engagement had delayed the young collegian. Tuesday morning, however, he received a letter from Cameron, which contained unexpected and unwelcome intelligence. It ran thus:
"MY DEAR HERBERT: When I left you, I fully expected to return on Monday, but an unexpected proposal has been made to me, which I think it expedient to accept. The physician whom I consulted about my eyes recommends a sea voyage as likely to benefit me, and advises me to start at once. A fellow student is intending to sail on Saturday next for Rio Janeiro, and I have decided to go with him. While I hope to reap advantage from the voyage, I regret that our pleasant intimacy should terminate so suddenly. I ought not to use the word 'terminate', however, as I fully intend to keep track of you, if I can, in your future plans. I may be gone some months, perhaps a year, but when I return I shall manage to meet you.
"I have submitted your father's invention to my father, who will examine it when he has leisure, and communicate with you. There may be some delay, as he is obliged to go to Europe for three months on business.
"I am owing you five dollars, but inclose fifteen, which I beg you to accept, with my thanks for your services, and my best wishes for your happiness and prosperity."
This was the letter which Herbert read with feelings of regret, almost bordering upon dismay. He missed the daily companionship of Cameron, for whom he had formed an attachment almost brotherly, and, besides, he was forced to regard the departure of his friend in its bearing upon his material interests. The income upon which he chiefly depended was suddenly withdrawn, and, look where he might, he could not see where he was to supply the deficiency. The fifteen dollars which Cameron had so considerately sent him would, indeed, last some time; but when that was spent what was he to do? This was a question which cost him anxious thought.
It was not till the day afterward that James Leech heard of Cameron's departure. It is needless to say that he took a malicious satisfaction in the thought that his enemy would now be deprived of his main income. He hastened to inform his father.
"What? Cameron gone away? That is unexpected," said the squire.
"Yes; it is sudden."
"Where is he gone?"
"They told me at the hotel that he was going to sail to South America. His eyes are weak, you know, and the doctor thinks the voyage will do him good."
"I wonder he didn't take the Carter boy with him, he seemed infatuated with him."
"He don't care anything about Carter. At any rate, he will forget all about him, now he is away. The beggarly upstart will have to draw in his horns now. He won't put on so many airs, I'm thinking."
"How much did Cameron pay him for reading to him?"
"Five dollars a week."
"A perfectly preposterous price."
"So I think. But he won't get it now."
"They'll find it hard to get along."
"Of course they will. They can't pay you interest on the mortgage now."
"I don't see how they can."
"And you can take possession of the house, can't you?"
"I certainly shall if the interest isn't paid promptly."
"Perhaps Carter would sell his boat now. He was pretty stiff about it before."
"I wouldn't make him an offer."
"If he succeeded in selling the boat he might be able to pay the interest, and delay my getting possession of the property."
"That is true," said James. "I didn't think of that. Besides, you have promised me a sailboat next spring."
"If business is good, as I hope it may be, you shall have one. At present I am rather short of money."
"I thought you always had plenty of money, father," said James, in surprise.
"I have been buying stocks in the city, James, and that has tied up my money. However, I shall probably make a very handsome profit when I sell out. My friend assures me that I stand a chance of making twenty thousand dollars," concluded the squire, complacently.
"That's a big pile of money," said James. "Are you pretty sure of making it?"
"The chances are greatly in my favor. Of course, it depends on the turn of the market."
"If you succeed, will you move to New York, father?"
"I hope you will. This village is awfully slow. New York is the place to see life."
"There are some kinds of life it is not profitable to see," said the squire, shrewdly.
"I don't want to be cooped up in a little country village all my life," grumbled James.
"You won't be. Don't trouble yourself on that score."
"It will do well enough for Carter. He isn't fit for anything but a country bumpkin, but it don't suit me."
"Well, James, you must be patient, and things may turn out as you desire."
At the same time Herbert was holding a consultation with his mother.
"My prospects are not very bright here, mother," he said, rather despondently. "I am ready enough to work, but there is no work to be had, so far as I can see."
"You forget your garden, Herbert."
"Yes; that will help us a little; but I can't expect to clear more than twenty dollars out of it, and twenty dollars won't go a great way."
"It is something, Herbert."
"It isn't enough to pay our next interest bill."
Mrs. Carter looked troubled,
"If I could sell the property for what it cost your father I should be tempted to do it."
"You mean for fifteen hundred dollars?"
"Yes; that would give us seven hundred and fifty dollars over the mortgage."
"I should be in favor of selling, too, in that case; but Squire Leech only offers eleven hundred at the outside."
"He ought to be more considerate."
"He wants to make a bargain at your expense, mother. That isn't all. He is provoked to think you haven't accepted his offer before, and, of course, that won't incline him to be any more liberal." "I am afraid we shall have to part with our home," said the widow, with a sigh.
"There is one hope, mother. I don't like to think of it too much, for fear it won't amount to anything; but father's invention may prove valuable. You know Mr. Cameron's father has agreed to examine it."
"If we could only get two or three hundred dollars for it, it would be a great help."
"If we get anything at all we shall get more. I am afraid we shall have to wait, though, for Mr. Cameron writes me his father is going to Europe for a few months."
"Everything seems against us, Herbert," said his mother, in a despondent tone.
But Herbert was more hopeful.
"If we can only manage to keep along and pay the next interest, I think we'll be all right, mother," he said. "I mean to try, anyway. If there's any work to be had anywhere within five miles, I'll try to obtain it. How much money have you got left, mother?"
"Ten dollars and a half."
"And here are fifteen that Mr. Cameron sent me. No chance of the poorhouse for a month, mother. Before that has gone by something may turn up."
A NEW START
Harvest came, and for the time Herbert was busy. He could not afford to hire assistance, and was obliged to do all the work himself. When all was finished, and his share of the vegetables sold, he sat down to count up his profits.
"Well, mother," he asked, "how much money do you think I have made by farming?"
"You expected to make twenty dollars."
"I have cleared twenty-one dollars and a half besides the vegetables I have brought home and stored in the cellar."
"That is doing very well," said Mrs. Carter.
"I have had to work very hard for it," said Herbert, thoughtfully, "and for a good many days. After all, it isn't quite enough to pay our interest."
"The interest doesn't come due for six weeks yet."
"That is true, mother; but six weeks hence we shall be poorer than we are now. We shall have to use some of this money for current expenses, and I know of no way to replace it."
"You may earn some more."
"I don't see any chance—that is, here. There is nothing doing in Wrayburn. If there were any factories or workshops, I might stand a chance of getting something to do."
Mrs. Carter did not reply. She knew that Herbert was right, and she had nothing to suggest.
"I have thought of something" said Herbert; "but you may not like it at first."
"What is it?" asked his mother, with interest.
"Would you have any objection to my going to New York and trying my fortune there?"
Mrs. Carter uttered a little cry of dismay.
"You go to New York—a boy of your age!" she exclaimed.
"I am old enough to take care of myself," said Herbert, sturdily.
"A great city is a dangerous place."
"It won't be dangerous for me. I shall be too busy—that is, if I get work—to fall into temptation, if that is what you mean."
"I should miss you so much, Herbert, even if I knew you were doing well," said his mother, pathetically.
"I know you would, mother; and I should miss you, too; but I can't live here always. If I do well in the city you can come and join me there."
This was the first time Herbert broached the subject of going to New York. He resumed the attack the next day, and the next, and finally won his mother's consent to go for a week, and see whether he could find anything to do.
His mother's consent obtained, Herbert took but a day to make his preparations. The next day, after an early breakfast, he started for the great city, excited with the idea of going, but hardly able to repress the tears as he saw the lonely look upon his mother's face.
He was her only son, and she was a widow.
"I must send her good news as soon as possible," he thought. "That will cheer her up."
About noon Herbert reached the city. He had formed no particular plan, except to find Cornelius Dixon, who would doubtless be able to advise him about getting a place, perhaps would have influence enough to procure him one. He did not know where to look for Cornelius, but concluded that his name would be in the city directory. He entered a small liquor store, which he happened to pass, and walked up to the counter.
"Good-morning," said he politely, addressing a young man behind the bar.
This young man had coarse red hair, and a mottled complexion, and looked as if he patronized freely the liquors he sold. He turned his glance upon Herbert, who stood before him with his fresh, inquiring face, holding under his arm a small bundle of clothing tied up in a paper.
"Hello, yourself!" he answered. "Want some bitters?"
"Thank you," said Herbert, innocently, "I don't require any medicine."
"Medicine?" repeated the other, with a frown. "Do you mean to compare my drinks to medicine?"
"You said bitters," returned Herbert.
"You're from the country, ain't you?" asked the bartender.
"So I thought. You haven't cut your eyeteeth yet. When a gentleman takes a drink he takes his bitters. Now, what'll you have?"
"Nothing, thank you."
"Oh, you needn't thank me. I didn't offer to give you a drink. What do you want, anyhow?"
"Have you got a directory?"
"No; we don't keep one. We don't care where our customers live. All we want is their money."
Herbert did not fancy the bartender's tone or manner; but felt that it would be foolish to get angry. So he explained: "I have a cousin living in the city; I thought I could find out where he lived in the directory."
"What's your cousin's name?"
"Never heard of him. He don't buy his bitters at this shop."
It was clear that no satisfaction was to be found here, and Herbert looked further. Finally, at a druggist's he found a directory, and hopefully looked for the name. But another disappointment awaited him. There were several Dixons, but Cornelius was not among them.
"I must give him up, and see what I can do by myself," thought Herbert. "I wish I could come across him."
It seemed strange to him that one who was so prominent as Cornelius claimed to be, and who had been living for years in the city, should have been overlooked by the compilers of the directory. He was not discouraged, however; he expected to encounter difficulties, and this was the first one.
He kept on his way, attracting some attention as he walked. The city Arab knows a stranger by instinct.
"Carry your bundle, mister?" asked a ragged urchin.
"No; thank you. I can carry it myself."
"I won't charge you much. Take you to any hotel in the city."
"I don't think I shall go to any hotel. I can't afford it. Can you show me a cheap boarding house?"
"Yes," said the boy. "What'll you give?"
"That ain't enough. It wouldn't keep me in cigars an hour."
"Do you smoke?" asked Herbert, surprised.
"In course I do. I've smoked for four or five years."
"How old are you?"
"The old woman says I'm ten. She ought to know."
"It isn't good for boys to smoke," said Herbert, gravely.
"Oh, bosh! Dry up! All us boys smoke."
Herbert felt that his advice was not called for, and he came to business.
"I'll give you fifteen cents," he said, "if you'll show me a good, cheap boarding house."
"Well," said the Arab, "business is poor, and I'll do it for once. Come along."
Herbert concluded from the boy's appearance that he would be more likely to know of cheap than of fashionable boarding houses; but it did not occur to him that there was such a thing as being too cheap. He realized it when the boy brought him to the door of a squalid dwelling in a filthy street, and, pointing to it, complacently remarked: "That's the place you want—that's Rafferty's."
Herbert stared at it in dismay. Accustomed to the utmost neatness, he was appalled at the idea of lodging in such a place.
"Gimme them fifteen cents, mister," said the boy, impatiently.
"But I don't like the place. I wouldn't stay here."
"It's cheap," said the young Arab. "Rafferty'll give you a lodging for ten cents, meals fifteen. You can't complain of that, now."
"I don't complain of the price. It's dirty. I wouldn't stay in such a dirty place."
"Oh, you're a fine gentleman, you are!" said the boy, sarcastically. "You'd better go to the Fifth Avenoo Hotel, you had."
"I won't stop here. I want some decent place."
Meanwhile, Mrs. Rafferty herself had come to the door, and caught the meaning of the conference. She took instant umbrage at Herbert's last words.
"Dacent, do ye say?" she repeated, with flaming eyes and arms akimbo. "Who dares to say that Bridget Rafferty doesn't keep a dacent house?"
"He does," said the Arab, indicating Herbert, with a grin.
"And who are you, I'd like to know?" demanded Mrs. Rafferty, turning upon Herbert angrily. "Who are you, that talks agin' a poor widder that's tryin' to earn an honest living?"
"I beg your pardon, madam," said Herbert, anxious to get out of the scrape. "I meant no offense."
"Lucky for you, thin!" said Mrs. Rafferty, in a belligerent tone. "Be off wid you both, thin, or I'll call a cop."
Herbert turned to go, nothing loath, but his guide followed him.
"Gimme them fifteen cents," he demanded.
"You haven't shown me a good boarding place."
"Yes, I did."
"You don't seem to know what I want. I'll give you five cents, and look out for myself."
The young Arab tried for ten; but Herbert was firm. He felt that he had no money to waste, and that he had selected a poor guide. It was wiser to rely upon himself.
OPENING THE CAMPAIGN
Not knowing his way, but wandering wherever the fancy seized him, Herbert finally came to Washington Square, and took a seat on one of the benches provided for the public. He looked around him with interest, surveying the groups that passed him, though without the expectation of recognizing anyone. But, as good fortune would have it, the very person he most desired to see strolled by.
Mr. Cornelius Dixon looked like a cheap swell. In his dress he caricatured the fashion, and exhibited a sort of pretentious gentility which betrayed his innate vulgarity. He stared in wonder when a boy with a bundle under his arm started from his seat, and hurried toward him with the greeting: "How do you do, Mr. Dixon?"
"Really," drawled Cornelius, "you have the advantage of me."
"Don't you remember me? I am your cousin, Herbert Carter."
"What! the boy the old fellow left his old clothes to?" asked Cornelius.
"The same one," answered Herbert, smiling.
"You haven't got any of 'em on, have you?" asked Mr. Dixon, surveying him with curiosity.
"Yes; this coat was made from my uncle's cloak."
"Shouldn't have thought it. It looks quite respectable, 'pon my honor. When did you come to the city?"
"Only this morning."
"On a visit?"
"No; I want to find a place."
"Humph!" muttered Cornelius, thoughtfully. "Places don't grow on every bush. Where are you hanging out?"
"I haven't found a place yet. I want to find a cheap boarding house."
"You might come to mine."
"Perhaps you pay more than I could afford," suggested Herbert, who was not aware that Cornelius had a very limited income, and occupied a room on the fourth floor of a Bleecker Street boarding house, at the weekly expense of five dollars.
"You can come into my room for a day or two, and then we'll see what arrangement we can make. I'm going there now. Will you come along?"
Herbert gladly accepted the invitation. He was tired of wandering about the great city, not knowing where to lay his head; accordingly he joined his genteel cousin, and they walked toward Bleecker Street.
"Have you got any money?" queried Cornelius, cautiously.
"Not much. If I don't find something to do in a week, I must go back to the country."
"A week's a short time to find a place. But hold on! We want a boy in our store. I guess I could get you in."
"What wages would I get?"
"Two dollars a week, to begin with."
"I couldn't live on that, could I?"
"I guess not. Four dollars a week would be the least you could get boarded for."
"Then it will be better for me to go home than to stay here, and get into debt."
"Perhaps it would," said Cornelius, who was afraid Herbert might want to borrow of him.
"Can't I get something better? How much do you get?"
"Ahem! only twenty dollars a week," answered Mr. Dixon, who really got about half that.
"Why, that's splendid!" said Herbert.
"So it would be if I only got it," thought Cornelius. "I can't save anything," he answered. "I have to dress in the fashion, you know, on account of my position in society."
Herbert privately thought, from an inspection of his cousin's wardrobe, that the fashion was a queer one, but he did not say so.
"It's a shame the old man didn't leave us more," said Mr. Dixon, in an aggrieved tone.
"It would have been convenient," Herbert admitted.
"He ought to have left us ten thousand dollars apiece."
"What would you have done with so much money?"
"Gone into business on my own account. If I had a store of my own I might have offered you a place." "But suppose I had ten thousand dollars, too?"
"Then I would have taken you into partnership. It would be a grand thing for you to be junior partner in a New York firm."
Herbert thought so, too, though it is doubtful whether a firm of which Mr. Dixon was the head would have occupied so proud a position as some others.
"I suppose you have spent all your legacy?" said Herbert.
"I should say so. What's a hundred dollars? I bought a new suit of clothes, a dozen pair of kids, and a box of cigars, and that took up about all of it. You don't smoke, do you?"
"Oh, no," answered Herbert, surprised at the question.
"Better not. It's expensive. Wait a minute. I want to buy a cigar."
Mr. Dixon dove into a cigar store, and emerged with one in his mouth.
Soon they reached the boarding house. It was a five-story brick building, rather shabby outwardly.
Cornelius opened the door with a night key, and bade Herbert follow. So he did, up to the fifth floor, where his guide opened a door and admitted him into a room about ten feet square, in a bad state of disorder. In the corner was a bed, not very inviting in appearance. It looked very different from the neat little bed which Herbert slept in at home. The furniture was of hair, and had evidently seen better days. There were two chairs, both of them covered with portions of Mr. Dixon's wardrobe. Cornelius cleared off one, and invited Herbert to be seated.
"This is my den," he said.
"Den," seemed to be the right word, though Herbert did not say so. He wondered why a man with so large an income did not live better.
"You can brush your hair if you want to," said Cornelius. "The supper bell will ring right off. I'll take you down with me."
"Will there be room?" asked Herbert.
"Oh, yes; I'll arrange about that. If you like you can room with me, and I guess I can fix it so you needn't pay more than four dollars a week, getting your lunch outside."
"I wish you would," said Herbert, who felt that, dirty as the room was, it would be more like home to him than where he was wholly unacquainted.
At the table below, Herbert found a seat next to Cornelius. There were other clerks at the table whom Mr. Dixon knew, also two or three married couples, and two extra ladies.
"That lady is an actress," whispered Cornelius, pointing to a rather faded woman, of about thirty, on the opposite side of the table.
"Is she?" returned Herbert, examining her with considerable curiosity. "Where does she play?"
"At the Olympic," said Mr. Dixon. "She is Rosalie Vernon."
"That's a pretty name."
"It's only her stage name. Her real name is Brown."
"Did you ever see her play?"
"Often; she's good."
"She looks very quiet."
"She don't say much here; but on the stage she has enough to say for herself. Do you see that man with gray hair and spectacles?"
"He's an Italian count. He lost his property somehow, and is obliged to give lessons in French and Italian. Quite a come-down, isn't it?"
In the evening he discussed his plans with Cornelius.
"Can't I get more than two dollars a week in a store?" he asked.
"I am afraid not; though you might stumble on a place where they would give three."
"Even that would not be enough to live upon. I must make that, at any rate, and I hoped to be able to save something."
"There are some newsboys who make a dollar a day," suggested Cornelius.
"A dollar a day? That's six dollars a week."
"Do you think I could go into that?"
"Of course you can, if you've got money enough to buy a stock of papers to start with. You'll be your own boss. Then there's boot- blacking; but that ain't genteel."
"I should prefer selling papers."
"Then you'd better try it. I've spoken to the landlady, and she'll take you for four dollars a week."
Herbert closed the day in good spirits. He thought he saw his way clear to supporting himself in the city. Before he went to bed he wrote a cheerful letter to his mother and deposited it in a post office box at the corner.
HERBERT AS A NEWSBOY
The next morning, by advice of his roommate, Herbert got up early, and made his way downtown and obtained a supply of morning papers.
The first day was not a success, chiefly on account of his inexperience. He was "stuck" on nearly half his papers, and the profits were less than nothing. But Herbert was quick to learn. The second day, though he still had some papers left, he cleared twenty- five cents. The third day he netted seventy-five. He felt now that he had passed the period of experiment, and that he would at any rate, be able to pay his board. Of course, he hoped for something better, and indeed felt confident of it.
Three weeks later, about eleven o'clock in the forenoon, as he stood in front of the Astor House, with his last paper in his hand, he heard his name called:
"Hello, Carter; are you here?"
He did not need to turn around to recognize James Leech.
"Good-morning, James," he said, politely.
"So you're a newsboy," said James.
"Yes; any way to make a living."
"Do you make much?" inquired his old foe, curiously.
"I haven't made enough to retire upon yet; but I can manage to pay my board."
"How much do you pay for your board?"
Herbert hesitated about gratifying his curiosity, but finally did so.
"Four dollars," repeated James, scornfully. "It can't be much of a boarding house."
"An Italian count boards there," said Herbert, knowing James' respect for rank.
"You don't say so!" returned James, rather impressed. "Did he ever speak to you?"
"He spoke to me this morning."
"What did he say?"
"'Will you pass ze butter?'"
"Do you save up any money?" inquired James.
Herbert penetrated his motive in asking the question, and did not mean to give too definite information. But James was bent on learning all he could.
"How much do you make a day?" he asked.
"Sometimes more, sometimes less, just as it happens."
"I can't tell anything from that."
"Why do you want to know?" asked Herbert, pointedly.
"Curiosity, I suppose."
"So I thought. If it was from interest in me, I would tell you; but I don't care to gratify your curiosity."
"You don't expect me to feel any interest in a common newsboy, do you?"
"No; I don't. I know you too well for that."
"I don't see what object you have in refusing to answer my questions."
"If you are thinking of going into the business, yourself, I'll tell you."
"I a newsboy? I sell papers in the street? You must be crazy!" returned James, haughtily.
"I suppose you feel above it," said Herbert, smiling.
"To be sure I do. Haven't I a right to?"
"Oh, you must settle that question for yourself. Papers, sir?"
The gentleman addressed purchased the last remaining paper, and Herbert was free till afternoon.
"How do you like the city?" asked James.
"Very much. I should like to have my mother here; then I would be contented."
"We may come to live here," said James. "Of course, we shall live in a brownstone front, uptown."
"I live in a brick house," said Herbert, smiling.
"Fashionable people live in brownstone fronts."
"I may be rich some time."
"Then you'll have to go into some other business. But there isn't much hope for you. You'll be a poor man."
"You seem very confident of it."
"You've got no chance, you know. But I must be going."
"Who do you think I met this morning, father?" asked James, later in the day.
"I don't know."
"The Carter boy."
"Where did you meet him?"
"He was selling papers in front of the Astor House."
"He won't get rich very fast in that business. What did he have to say for himself?"
"He wouldn't tell me how much money he was making. He pays four dollars a week for board." "He probably finds it hard to pay that. It isn't likely he lays up anything. He would do better to stay in Wrayburn."
"Then you think he can't send any money to his mother?" "No; he will find it hard to pay his own expenses."
"Then she won't be able to pay the interest on the mortgage?"
"I don't see how she can."
"And you will seize the house?"
"I fully intend to do so."
"Good! That'll bring down Carter's pride. He's as cheeky as ever."
"He hasn't much to be proud of."
"That don't seem to make any difference with him. He talks as if he were my equal."
"That don't make him so."
"When are you going to move to the city, father?"
"I don't know," said the squire, shortly.
"I've got tired of Wrayburn."
"You'll have to stay there till my business will allow me to move."
The fact was, Squire Leech had just had an unsatisfactory interview with Mr. Andrew Temple. Under the advice of that gentleman he had invested a very considerable sum of money in some mining shares, in the assurance that he would be able in a very short time to sell at a large profit. But from the time he bought, they began to drop. He asked an explanation of Mr. Temple.
"My dear sir," said the financier, "there's no being sure of the market. So many trivial circumstances affect it, that the wisest of us cannot absolutely predict anything. We can only calculate probabilities."
"You told me there was no doubt about the stock rising," grumbled the squire.
"Nor is there any, if you only have patience to wait Rome was not built in a day, you know."
"It seems to me there is a good deal of uncertainty and risk in these stock operations," objected the squire, very sensibly.
"Not under discreet guidance; if you only have pluck and patience, you are morally sure of a fortune in the end. Fortunes are made every day. Why, there's old Jenkins, a grocer on Sixth Avenue—you've heard of his luck, haven't you?"
"Made fifty thousand dollars in six months from an original investment of ten thousand. At first, things went against him, but he was bound to see the thing through, and he did, and he's forty thousand better off for it."
"What did he invest in? "asked the squire, eagerly.
Mr. Temple told him, but I regret to say that the whole thing was a fiction, intended to encourage his dupe. He succeeded in influencing the squire to put another large sum into his hands, and sent him away hopeful. To raise this sum Squire Leech was obliged to sell or mortgage most of his real estate to parties whom Mr. Temple found for him. The prices realized were less than his valuation of the property; but Temple told him this was not so important, as he was sure to double his money in twelve months by investments in Wall Street.
So Squire Leech gave himself up to dreams of sudden wealth. He subscribed for two financial papers, and spent many hours in studying their columns. He was soon able to talk glibly of stocks and bonds, and the Wrayburn people thought he was on the high road to becoming a millionaire.
"Depend upon it, the squire's a long-headed man," said old Tom Cooper, in the village tavern. "It wouldn't surprise me a mite if he died worth a million."
The weeks slipped rapidly away. Herbert succeeded in maintaining himself at his new business, and never failed to have ready the four dollars which he had agreed to pay for board. It was lucky he did, for he soon found that there would be no chance of borrowing from his roommate. Cornelius was always hard up. As he only paid a dollar more board than Herbert, the latter wondered what he did with his twenty dollars a week. But the fact was, Mr. Dixon at present received but half that sum, though pride induced him to represent otherwise. And what, I ask, are ten dollars a week to a young man of fashionable tastes? No wonder he was always short of funds. How could it be otherwise?
Of course it was satisfactory to Herbert to feel that he was paying his way. But still he had a source of anxiety. He felt that he ought— indeed, it was absolutely necessary—to contribute to his mother's support. Moreover, the dreaded day on which the semi-annual interest came due was now close at hand. So far as he could judge, his mother would have nothing to meet it. It seemed inevitable that she should submit to the squire's demand, and sacrifice the house. It was a sad thing to think of, yet there was this consolation: the three or four hundred dollars cash which the squire would pay would tide over the next year or two, until Herbert was older and could earn more.
But, after all, was it certain that he would earn more? Could he sell more papers two years hence than now? That was hardly likely. If he wanted to advance his income, it must be in some other business. Yet, to a boy situated as he was, there was little chance of getting any employment that would make as good immediate returns as selling papers.
So, thinking over these things, our hero was much perplexed, and could see no way out of the difficulty. He had never read "David Copperfield," and had not accustomed himself to expecting something to turn up. He was sensible enough, indeed, to know that it is idle to wait for such chances. Yet, when one does his duty faithfully, things will occasionally turn up, and this was precisely what happened to Herbert.
He was standing at his accustomed post one day, when a pleasant- looking gentleman of fifty, or perhaps a little more, accosted him, inquiring for a particular morning paper.
"I haven't got it, sir; but I will get you one," said Herbert.
"Will you be long?"
"No, sir; I know where I can get one at once."
"Very well, then, I will wait here till you return."
Herbert was as good as his word. As the gentleman paid him, he asked, pleasantly: "How is business, my young friend?"
"Pretty good, sir."
"Can you make money enough to support yourself?"
"Then I suppose you are contented?"
"I should be, sir, if I had only myself to look after."
"You haven't a wife and family, I presume," said the gentleman, smiling.
"I hope not yet, sir," he answered. "But I have a mother whom I ought to assist."
"And you cannot?"
"I have not been able to yet. It takes all I can earn to pay my own expenses."
"Does your mother live in the city?"
"No, sir; in the town of Wrayburn, fifty or sixty miles from here."
"Wrayburn?" repeated the gentleman, in surprise.
"Yes, sir; it is a small village. I dare say you never heard of it."
"But I have heard of it. My son passed a few weeks there during the last summer."
It was Herbert's turn to be surprised. He examined the gentleman's face attentively, and it dawned upon him who he was.
"Are you Mr. Cameron?" he asked.
"How is it that you know me?" inquired the other.
"My name is Herbert Carter. I was employed to read to your son. Have you heard from him?"
"We are expecting a letter daily, but the distance is considerable, and we may have to wait for some time yet. So you are Herbert Carter?"
"My son was very much interested in you. He has spoken often of you."
"He was very kind to me."
"Your father was an inventor."
"That was not his business, but he devoted his leisure to invention."
"My son placed in my hands, for examination, a model of his, just before he went away."
"Have you examined it? What do you think of it, sir?" asked Herbert, eagerly.
"I only recently returned from Europe, and have not thoroughly examined it. So far as I have done so, I am inclined to think favorably of it."
Herbert's heart bounded with hope.
"Do you think we can get anything for it?" he asked.
"I think you can. Indeed, if further examination bears out my first favorable impressions, I will myself make you an offer for it."
"I should be so glad, for mother's sake!" exclaimed Herbert.
"My young friend," said Mr. Cameron, "I like your feeling toward your mother. I sincerely hope I may be able to make you a satisfactory offer. By the way, how are you situated? Can you leave the city this afternoon?"
"Then come home with me. You shall be my guest for a week. During that time we will examine and decide about the model."
"Thank you, sir; you are very kind," said Herbert, hesitating.
"What makes you hesitate?"
"I am afraid I don't look fit to visit a gentleman's family."
"Oh, never mind that," said Mr. Cameron, heartily. "We are plain people, and don't value fine dress."
"Will there be time for me to go home first?"
"Yes; you can meet me two hours hence at the St. Nicholas Hotel. I occupy Room 121. On second thoughts, you may as well wait for me in the reading room."
"All right, sir."
Herbert hurried home, arrayed himself in clean clothes, put up a small bundle of necessary articles, and in an hour and a half was at the hotel awaiting Mr. Cameron. He left a note for Cornelius Dixon, explaining that he was called out of the city for a few days, but would write soon. He did not enter into details, for he was not at all certain that things would turn out as he hoped.
Mr. Cameron lived in a substantial country house, with a fine garden attached. Nothing was wanting of comfort in his hospitable home, but he avoided show and ostentation. To Herbert was assigned a large, well-furnished chamber, the best he had ever occupied, and he was made to feel at home. The next day he accompanied Mr. Cameron to the manufactory, which he found to be a scene of busy industry, employing three hundred hands.
"I shall be busy to-day; but to-night I will look at your father's model," said the manufacturer. "Probably it will be three or four days before I can come to any decision."
Herbert passed his time pleasantly for the next three or four days. Yet he could not avoid feeling anxious. Interest day was close at hand, and his hopes might end in failure.
On the fourth day Mr. Cameron said to him: "Well, Herbert, I have made up my mind about your father's invention."
Herbert's suspense was great. His heart almost stopped beating.
The manufacturer went on:
"I consider it practicable, and am disposed to make you an offer for it. Are you authorized to conclude terms?"
"My mother will agree to anything I propose, sir."
"Then this is my offer. The model must be patented at once. I will see to that. Then make over to me half the invention, and I will agree to pay you and your mother one thousand dollars a year for the next ten years."
"Are you in earnest?" gasped Herbert.
"Entirely so," said Mr. Cameron. "Will that satisfy you?"
"I would have accepted a quarter of the sum you offer, sir."
"Better not tell me that," said Mr. Cameron, smiling. "I might take advantage of it. Will you consider it a bargain, then?"
"Oh, how happy my mother will be!" said Herbert.
"Don't you want to go home, and carry the news?"
"I should like to very much."
Then his countenance changed. Two days hence, as he reflected, the interest would be payable. Must they lose the house, after all? If only he had a small part of the money, it would make matters all right.
"Does anything trouble you?" asked the manufacturer, noticing the sudden change in his countenance.
Upon this Herbert told him exactly how they were situated in regard to the house, and in what danger they were of losing it.
"If it's nothing worse that that," said Mr. Cameron, I cheerfully, "you needn't feel anxious. I will advance you; a hundred dollars on account of the contract, and you shall give me a receipt for it."
Herbert's face cleared instantly, and he was warm in his gratitude.
The next morning he started for home.
After all, the little model which his father left behind, had proved to be his most valuable legacy.
Mrs. Carter was setting the table for her solitary supper. She had been very lonely since Herbert went away. The days seemed doubly long. Most of all she missed him at mealtime. He kept her informed of all that was going on in the village, and when there was no news to tell he talked over their plans for the future. Life seemed very dull and monotonous without him. Yet the poor mother always wrote cheerfully, for she did not want to damp his courage, or interfere with the plan of life he had formed. She felt that there was nothing for him to do in Wrayburn, and, since she could not go to him, they must be content to live apart for the present.
"I wish I could see my boy," she sighed, as she poured out her solitary cup of tea, and tried to force down a few mouthfuls of toast. "Shall we ever be able to live together again?"
There was a noise at the outer door, a quick step was heard, and Herbert rushed in, nearly upsetting the table in his impetuosity, as he embraced his mother.
"Are you glad to see me, mother?" he asked.
"You don't know how I have longed to see you!" was the heartfelt reply.
She did not ask what brought him home, nor care to ask just yet. She was too happy in having him back.
"You don't ask for my news, mother," said Herbert, after a pause.
"Is it good news?" she asked, wistfully.
"Suppose I should tell you that Mr. Cameron's father has agreed to pay two hundred dollars for father's model!"
"Has he, really?" asked Mrs. Carter, her face lighting up.
"He has bought it, that is, half of it; but he is to pay more than that."
"More than two hundred dollars, Herbert?"
"More than three hundred. What do you think of that?"
"Are you in earnest, Herbert?"
"Quite in earnest, mother; only it is better than a dream. You mustn't be too much excited, mother, when you hear the whole. I will only say that we shan't have to pinch any more, or lie awake thinking how to ward off starvation."
"And can we be together again, Herbert? You don't know how lonely it is without you."
"Poor mother! How lonesome it must have been! Yes; we can be together again, if you think a thousand dollars a year will pay our expenses."
"A thousand dollars a year!" exclaimed Mrs. Carter, thinking that Herbert was bereft of his senses. "It can't be that your father's invention is worth as much as that?"
"Mr. Cameron has offered that for half the invention, and I have agreed to sell to him. I supposed you would not object."
"Object? I did not dream of getting one-tenth as much. It seems to me like a dream."
"It is a happy dream, mother, and a true one. Father little thought what a handsome legacy he was leaving us when he left us that model."
"How happy it would have made him had he known it before he died! Tell me how it all happened."
So Herbert had to tell his mother about his fortunate meeting with Mr. Cameron, and what resulted from it.
"Mr. Cameron is a very honorable man," he concluded, "for he might easily have offered one-quarter as much, and I should have agreed to it. Now, mother, let me tell you my plans for the future. In the first place, are you willing to leave Wrayburn?"
"I am willing to live anywhere if we are together."
"Mr. Cameron proposed to me to accept a clerkship in his office, but for the present, I told him, I wished to make up the deficiencies in my education. In the town where he lives there is a flourishing academy. I propose that we move there, and I spend the next two years in study. We shall have a competent income, more than enough to support us, and so I can afford the time."
"I fully approve of your proposal, Herbert. We may sometime lose our money, but a good education never."
"I was sure you would agree with me."
"Shall we have any difficulty in finding a house of suitable size?"
"I inquired about that. There is a very pretty cottage just vacated, not far from the academy. I find we can have it at a moderate rent. I have already got the refusal of it, and will write at once that we will hire it."
"And what shall we do with this house?"
"We won't sell it to Squire Leech at a sacrifice. That is one thing certain. By the way, day after to-morrow is the day for paying the interest."
"Yes; I have been troubling myself about it."
"There is no occasion; I have a hundred dollars in my pocket, given me on account by Mr. Cameron. So the squire is checkmated. But, mother, I have a favor to ask of you."
"What is that?"
"For two days keep secret our good fortune."
"I want the squire to be deceived—to think the place is in his grasp, and realize that there is many a slip between the cup and the lip."
"What shall I say to the neighbors if they ask why you have got home?"
"Say that I am not going back to New York—that I couldn't earn enough there to save anything."
"I will do as you think best, Herbert; but I am afraid that my joy at the good news you have brought will betray me."
"It will be attributed to your joy in having me back. We'll keep things secret for a day or two—that's all."
After supper Herbert walked out. He was popular in the village, and received many cordial greetings. To the inevitable inquiries he replied as he had suggested to his mother.
Presently he met James Leech. He smiled to himself as he saw James advancing to meet him, but assumed a sober, downcast look.
"Hello, Carter! Have you got back?" said James.
"Got tired of New York?"
"I should like New York well enough, if I could make enough money there."
"Then you're not going back?" asked James, in a tone of satisfaction.
"Not at present."
"I thought you'd be coming back," said James, in a tone of triumph.
"What made you think so?"
"I knew you couldn't get along there."
"I supported myself while I was there."
"But you didn't make anything over?"
"Then you might as well be back."
"I don't know. I am not sure of doing that in Wrayburn."
"I don't think I shall stay in Wrayburn long. Father talks of moving to New York," said James, in a burst of confidence. "What do you expect to do here?"
"Do you think your father would give me work?" asked Herbert, demurely.
"I don't know. He might, if you agreed to sell the house."
"We may, if we can get enough for it."
"You'll have to, anyway. You must be very poor."
"We've got a little money."
"Well, I'll mention your case to father. I'm sorry for you, but I knew beforehand you wouldn't succeed in New York."
Herbert smiled quietly as James walked away.
"He'll be astonished when he hears the truth," thought he.
James repeated to his father what Herbert had told him, and the squire jumped to the conclusion that Herbert and his mother were in his power, and must accede to his demand. He decided to take advantage of their necessities, and allow only three hundred dollars for the house.
He entered the little house with the air of a proprietor.
"I suppose you know my errand, Mrs. Carter," he said pompously.
"I believe this is interest day," returned the widow.
"Yes. I presume you have by this time seen the folly of holding on to the place. You can't afford it, and it is best to accept my offer."
"My mother and I have thought it over, and decided to sell," said Herbert.
"I am glad you are so sensible," observed Squire Leech, in a tone of satisfaction. "I will give you three hundred dollars over and above the mortgage."
"You offered us fifty dollars more before."
"Then is not now. You should have accepted my offer when I made it."
"We have no idea of selling at that price," said Herbert. "Our lowest price is six hundred and fifty dollars over and above the mortgage."
"Are you crazy?" ejaculated the squire, angrily.
"No; we have fixed upon that as a fair price," said Herbert, coolly.
"You know you can't get it."
"Then we won't sell."
"Young man, I apprehend you do not understand how the matter stands. You will have to sell."
"Why must we?"
"You can't live on nothing."
"Of course not."
"You have made a failure in New York."
"I made my expenses while I was there."
"Then why didn't you stay?"
"I wanted to do something for mother's support."
"You have altogether too high an idea of your own abilities."
"I hope not, sir."
"You influence your mother to her harm."
"I don't think so, Squire Leech."
"But in this case you must yield. You can't expect me to wait for my money."
"Do you mean the interest?"
"Of course I do."
"We shall not ask you to wait. I am ready to pay it."
The squire stared in discomfiture while Herbert drew out the precise sum needed to pay the interest.
"Where did you get that money?" he inquired, chop-fallen.
"Honestly, Squire Leech. Will you give me a receipt?"
The squire did so mechanically.
"I will give you the three hundred and fifty dollars," he said; "but you must accept it to-day, or it is withdrawn."
"Neither to-day nor any other day will it be accepted, Squire Leech," said Herbert, firmly. "If you choose to pay six hundred and fifty, we will sell."
"You must think I am crazy."
"No, sir; it is a fair offer. If you don't want to buy, we will make another offer. We will rent the house for ninety dollars a year. That is the interest on fifteen hundred dollars at six per cent. I believe a man in your employ wishes to live here."
"Where do you propose to live?" asked Squire Leech, in surprise.
"We are going to leave town."
"Have you got a chance to work outside?"
"Yes; but I have declined to. I am going to school for two years—to an academy."
"But how are you going to live all this time?" inquired the squire, in amazement.
"I shall live on my income," answered Herbert, smiling.
"Income! Have you had a legacy?"
"From whom? I thought you only got a trunk of old clothes from your uncle."
"My legacy comes from my father."
"But he died poor."
"He left behind him an invention, half of which we have sold for an income of a thousand dollars a year."
"A thousand a year!" ejaculated the squire.
"Yes. I have sold it to the father of Mr. Cameron, who employed me last summer. You see, there is no occasion for our selling the house."
"You have been very fortunate," said Squire Leech, soberly. "I congratulate you both."
"Thank you," said Herbert, who privately thought their visitor looked excessively annoyed at their good fortune.
"I will see you about the house," he said, as he rose to go.
"Well, the squire congratulated us," said Herbert, after he went away; "but he didn't look happy when he did so. I shouldn't wonder if he accepted our terms, now that he knows we needn't sell."
Herbert proved to be right. Two days later the squire offered six hundred dollars over the mortgage for the place, and it was accepted.
"The place is worth more, mother," he said; "but it will relieve us from care to sell it."
James was even more annoyed than his father when he heard of Herbert's good fortune; but after his first annoyance he showed a disposition to be friendly. It is the way of the world. Nothing makes us sought after like a little good fortune. James felt that, now Herbert was in a position to live without work, he was a gentleman, and to be treated accordingly. Herbert received his overtures politely, but rated them at their real value.
Two years slipped away.
Herbert has finished his course at the academy, and is about to enter the manufactory as an office clerk. Mr. Cameron means to promote him as he merits, and I should not be at all surprised if our young friend eventually became junior partner. He and his mother have bought the house into which they moved, and have done not a little to convert it into a tasteful home. The invention has proved all that Mr. Cameron hoped for it. It has been widely introduced, and Herbert realizes as much from his own half as Mr. Cameron agreed to pay for that which he purchased. So his father's invention has proved to be Herbert Carter's most valuable legacy.
Squire Leech has been unfortunate. Too late he found, that Andrew Temple had deceived and defrauded him. All his large property, except a few thousand dollars, has been swept away, and James, disappointed in his lofty hopes, last week applied to Herbert to use his influence to obtain him a situation in Mr. Cameron's establishment. There was no vacancy there, but our hero has found him a place in a dry-goods store in the same town. Whether he will keep it remains to be seen. Times have changed since James looked upon Herbert as far beneath him. Now he is glad to be acknowledged as his companion. If James profits by his altered circumstances, the loss of his father's property may not prove so much of a misfortune after all, for wealth is far from being the greatest earthly good. For our young friend Herbert we may confidently indulge in cheerful anticipations. He has undergone the discipline of poverty and privation, and prosperity is not likely to spoil him. He has done his duty under difficult circumstances, and now he reaps the reward.