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Mark Mason's Victory
by Horatio Alger
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"Why did you think he went out to pawn or sell them?"

"Because I recognized him."

"You recognized him?"

"Yes, as the young man in the Fifth Avenue stage who robbed an old lady of her wallet."

"The day that we first met?"

"Yes, sir."

The jeweler looked surprised.

"Didn't he recognize you?"

"He asked if we hadn't met before. He said there was something familiar in my face. Finally, he said I reminded him of an impudent telegraph boy he had fallen in with. He wants to meet that telegraph boy alone," added Mark with a smile.

"He has had his wish."

"Yes, but luckily for me he didn't recognize me."

"How did you explain about the rings being false?"

"I said you had probably made a mistake."

"I see you are quick-witted. Well, was that satisfactory?"

"He expects me to bring back the genuine rings this afternoon, as his aunt wants to leave the city this evening."

"I think he will have to wait. Perhaps it may be as well to notify him that she needn't put off her journey on that account. I don't want to spare you to go there again, however."

"There's a boy I know out on the street," suggested Mark. "He would be glad to go."

"Who is it?"

"Tom Trotter, a friend of mine. He's a good boy, though he's only a bootblack."

"Is he reliable?"

"Yes, sir; I will answer for him."

"Very well. Call him in."

Mark went to the door and called "Tom! Tom Trotter!"

Tom looked around and recognized Mark.

"You ain't left de telegraph, have you, Mark?" he said.

"No, but I'm working here for a day or two. Would you like to go up town on an errand?"

"Yes," answered Tom with alacrity. "Will I be paid?"

"Of course. Can't you leave your blacking box somewhere and get your face and hands washed?"

"Yes, Mark; there's a small s'loon near by, where I hang out sometimes. Just wait for me and I'll be back in a jiffy."

Tom reappeared in a very short time with his appearance greatly improved by the application of cold water and soap.

"Mr. Swan," said Mark, smiling, "this is Mr. Thomas Trotter, the young gentleman I spoke to you about."

"Oh, stow that, Mark!" expostulated Tom; "I ain't Mr. Trotter. I'm Tom."

"Mr. Trotter," said the jeweler, smiling, for he had a sense of humor, "I have a letter here which I wish you to take to the address named."

"And to walk, sir."

"No; I will give you ten cents for car fare, and when you return and make your report you shall be paid for doing the errand."

"All right, governor."

Tom started up town, and in due time reached the house on Forty-Seventh Street.

He rang the bell, and the door was opened by the hall boy already referred to.

"Is Mr. Schuyler at home?" asked Tom. "I've got a letter for him."

Mr. Schuyler, who was anxiously awaiting Mark's return, came out of a room to the left of the hall. When he saw Tom he looked disappointed.

"I was expecting a boy from Mr. Swan's jewelry store."

"That's where I come from."

"Did you bring the rings?" asked Schuyler eagerly.

"I don't know nothin' about no rings," answered Tom. "I've brought you a letter."

"Give it to me quick."

He opened the letter, and this is what he read with contracted brow.

"MR. HAMILTON SCHUYLER:

"When I called here this morning I recognized you as the young man who stole an old lady's pocketbook in a Fifth Avenue stage not long since. Of course I knew that this was another scheme of yours to get hold of money that did not belong to you. If you had been all right I would myself have brought back the real diamond rings which your aunt wished to buy. Tell her not to put off her journey to Buffalo, as Mr. Swan has made up his mind not to send them.

"Yours as ever, "A. D. T. 79."

"Then it was the telegraph boy, after all!" ejaculated Schuyler in a rage. "I only wish I had known it. Are you a friend of—the telegraph boy?"

"Am I a friend of Mark Mason? I should smile."

"Step in a minute, then!" said Schuyler, with an assumed friendliness.

As the unsuspecting Tom stepped inside the hall, the young man began to shower blows on his shoulders with a cane that he snatched from the hat rack.

Tom was for a minute dazed. Then his wits returned to him. He lowered his head and butted Schuyler in the stomach with such force that the latter fell over backwards with an ejaculation of pain.

Then Tom darted through the open door, but paused on the steps to say, "With the compliments of Tom Trotter."

Schuyler picked himself up, uttering execrations, and looked for the boy, but he was gone!



CHAPTER XIII.

MARK STARTS ON A JOURNEY.

"Shall you want me to-morrow, Mr. Swan?" asked Mark, as the clock struck six, and the jeweler prepared to close up.

"Yes; I shall probably want you for a week."

"Very well, sir; I will so report at the office."

The next morning about eight o'clock Mark reported for duty and waited for orders.

The jeweler looked up from a letter he had been reading.

"How would you like to make a journey?" he asked.

"Very much, sir."

"I shall probably send you to Cleveland."

"Is Cleveland in Ohio?" asked Mark, his eyes sparkling.

"Yes. Do you think you can find your way there?"

"I'll try."

"You generally succeed in what you undertake to do. Well, I will explain. I have a customer living in Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, who used to be a New York society lady. She bought a good deal of jewelry, and always purchased of me. This is what she writes."

The material part of the letter was this:

"I want a diamond pin worth about one thousand dollars. My husband has agreed to give it to me for a birthday present, and left the selection to me. I can't find anything here that I want, and have been led to think of my old jeweler in New York. You know my taste. Select what you think I will like and send me by private messenger. I might of course employ an express, but there have been some express robberies recently, and I am ready to pay the extra expense required by a special messenger. Send at once.

"ARABELLA LORING."

"You see," said the jeweler, "that this is an important matter. The messenger will bear great responsibility on account of the value of what he has in charge."

"Do you think I am old enough for the commission, Mr. Swan?" said Mark modestly.

"It is not so much a matter of age as of shrewdness and reliability. I have been led to think that you possess these qualifications. Of course there would be danger of your being robbed if it were known that you carried such a valuable parcel."

"I am not afraid, sir."

"Of course, again, you must take care not to let it be known what you have in charge. Make what statements you like as to your business. I can safely leave that to your own shrewdness."

"When do you want me to start, Mr. Swan?"

"There is a train this afternoon for Buffalo on the New York Central road. Can you get ready to take that?"

"Yes, sir. May I go home and let my mother know? I am not quite sure whether I have a supply of clean clothes."

"You can buy anything that you need on the way. Have you a gripsack?"

"Yes, sir. My mother has one."

"Will it do?"

"I think so."

"So far so good then. Now about money. I can't tell just how much you will need, but I will give you a certain amount, and if there is any over when you return you can account for it to me."

Mrs. Mason was greatly surprised when Mark came home and inquired for her traveling bag.

"What do you want of it, Mark?" she asked.

"I am going to start for Cleveland this afternoon."

"You're only funning, Mark," said Edith.

"No, I am not. I have agreed to go to Cleveland on business."

"What kind of business, Mark?" asked his mother.

"The gentleman who sends me, Mr. Swan, the jeweler, has asked me to keep my business secret."

"How long will you be gone?"

"I can't tell, but I will write you. Mr. Swan has told me I may stop over at Niagara Falls, but I shall not be very apt to do so till I am on my return."

"This seems very sudden. I don't know how I shall ever get along without you."

"You have money enough to last you, mother?"

"Yes."

"Then I think there won't be any trouble. If I stay away longer than I anticipate I will send you some more."

"It seems strange that Mr. Swan should send a boy on an important errand."

"The fact of the matter is, mother, that he has confidence in me."

"I am sure he is justified in this, but boys are not usually selected for important missions."

"That is the reason why I feel ambitious to succeed."

"By the way, Mark, Mrs. Mack's nephew called yesterday and tried to get some more money out of his aunt."

"Did you give him any?"

"No. She was very much frightened, but I threatened to call a policeman, and the fellow went off grumbling."

"She won't be safe till he gets into prison again."

On his way back to the jeweler's Mark met his friend Tom Trotter.

"Where are you goin'?"

"Out West."

Tom's eyes expanded like saucers.

"You ain't jokin'?"

"No."

"When you're goin'?"

"This afternoon."

"Goin' to be gone long?"

"I expect to be back in a week."

"I wish you'd take me with you."

"I'd like to, Tom, but I can't. Traveling costs money."

Tom showed considerable curiosity as to the nature of Mark's business, but on this point the telegraph boy was not communicative. He liked Tom as a friend, but did not dare to trust him with so important a secret.

Mr. Swan had already been to a ticket agent and procured a through ticket for Mark.

"Your train starts at four-thirty," said the jeweler. "You can engage a sleeping berth at the Grand Central depot. You will travel all night."

"I am sorry for that," said Mark. "I shall miss some of the scenery."

"You can arrange to travel over this part by day on your return."

It was four o'clock when Mark entered the depot. He thought it best to be on time. When the doors were opened he entered the station proper and sought the car containing his berth.

There was an upper and a lower berth, his being the lower. The two were numbered 7 and 8. He had scarcely taken his seat when a gentleman came in and sat down beside him. Neither he nor Mark had noticed each other particularly till the train had left the depot. Then the gentleman exclaimed in surprise, "Mark Mason?"

"Uncle Solon?" exclaimed the messenger in equal surprise.

"What brings you here?"

"A ticket," answered Mark briefly.

"You are in the wrong car. Didn't you know that this is the Limited Western Express?"

"Yes. I know it."

"Where are you going then?"

"I shall stop at Buffalo," answered Mark, not caring to mention his further destination.

Solon Talbot looked amazed.

"What on earth carries you out there?" he asked.

"This train," answered Mark demurely.

Solon Talbot frowned.

"You know what I mean. Why are you going to Buffalo?"

"A little matter of business."

"What business can a boy like you possibly have, I'd like to know?"

"It isn't my own business, Uncle Solon, and so I don't feel at liberty to tell."

"It is very strange. Have you a sleeping berth?"

"Yes."

"What number?"

"No. 7."

"That is the lower berth—just the one I wanted," exclaimed Talbot in vexation. "Mine is the upper. Let me see your sleeping check."

Mark showed it. Solon Talbot regarded it enviously.

"I will give you twenty-five cents to exchange," he said.

"I will exchange without the twenty-five cents if you prefer the lower berth."

"I do, but—I would rather pay."

"I can't accept it. Here is the check. Give me yours in return."

Solon did so muttering his thanks rather ungraciously. He hated to be under any obligation to his nephew.

"Where is Edgar?" asked Mark.

"I left him in New York. I am going back to Syracuse to attend to a little business, and shall then return to New York."

Mr. Talbot took out an evening paper and began to read. Mark prepared to look around him. Presently Mr. Talbot arose.

"I am going into the smoking-car to smoke a cigar," he said. "Have an eye on my grip while I am gone."

"All right, uncle."

Hours passed. The two travelers retired to their respective berths. About two o'clock Mark was startled by a severe shock that nearly threw him out of his berth. There was a confused shouting, and Mark heard some one crying.

"What's happened?"

Leaning out of the berth he saw Solon Talbot standing in the aisle, his face pale as a sheet.

There was a swaying movement of the car, and a sudden lurch. The car had gone over an embankment.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE TELLTALE MEMORANDUM.

When Mark came to himself he realized that he was lying on his back on the ground. It was a bright moonlight night, and he could see for some distance.

First of all he moved his arms and legs to ascertain whether any of his limbs were broken. Reassured on this point he felt next for the diamond pin. To his great relief it was safe.

All about him was confusion. He was just thinking of getting up when a man came along with a lantern, and stooping over, began to feel in the pockets of a prostrate figure lying near by. Instantly Mark was on the alert, for he felt sure that this man must be a thief intent on robbing the victims of the disaster.

He peered into the face of the robber who fancied himself unobserved, and with a thrill of excitement he recognized the man whom he had met twice before in New York, and who had called himself Hamilton Schuyler. At the same time, glancing at the upturned face of the recumbent figure he saw that it was his uncle, Solon Talbot, still insensible.

Schuyler had just drawn Mr. Talbot's watch from his pocket, when Mark, putting a whistle to his mouth, blew a sharp note on it.

Schuyler started, let the watch drop, and rose in a state of nervous alarm.

"What was that?" he cried.

"Mr. Hamilton Schuyler," said Mark calmly, "that gentleman will have occasion for his watch. You had better let it alone."

"I was only going to take care of it for him," muttered Schuyler.

"You'd take care of it well," retorted Mark.

"Who are you?" demanded Schuyler, and he stepped over to where Mark lay and peered into his face.

"By jingo, if it isn't the telegraph boy!" he exclaimed. "How came you here?"

"By the train."

"Have you any more bogus diamonds about you?" inquired Schuyler sarcastically.

"I might have had if I had expected to meet you."

"I'll see what I can find at any rate."

As he spoke he leaned over and was about to feel in Mark's pockets when the telegraph messenger blew another blast on his whistle so loud that a relief party came running up in haste.

"What's the matter?" asked the leader.

"The matter is that here is a thief, rifling the pockets of the passengers. He was just feeling in mine."

Schuyler started to run, but was quickly captured.

"What are you about, you scoundrel?" asked his captor.

"Trying to relieve the victims of the disaster," answered Schuyler. "On my honor that is all I was doing."

"Is this true?" asked his captor, turning to Mark.

"Yes; he was trying to relieve us of our valuables. He had that gentleman's watch out of his pocket when I first whistled. As you came up, he was trying to rob me."

"That's enough! Take him along."

Two strong men tied Schuyler's hands together and marched him away.

"I'll get even with you for this, you young rascal!" he exclaimed in a rage, shaking his fist at Mark.

Just then Solon Talbot recovered consciousness.

"Where am I?" he groaned.

"There has been an accident, Uncle Solon," said Mark, now on his feet. "We went over an embankment and were spilled out. Are you all right? Are any of your limbs broken?"

"I—I don't think so, but I have had a shock, and my head is bruised."

"You'll do!" said a surgeon, who was one of the relief party. "You'll be as good as new in a day or two."

"Is there a hotel near by? I want to be moved."

"As soon as we can attend to the matter. We are looking for the bad cases."

"I'll look after you, Uncle Solon," said Mark. "See if you can't get up."

With much ado Mr. Talbot arose, and leaning on Mark's arm left the scene of the disaster. Mark procured a carriage and directed the driver to take them to the nearest hotel.

When they reached it the messenger ordered a room and helped his uncle up to it.

"Just look and see if you've lost anything," he suggested. "I saw a thief trying to relieve you of your watch, but I interrupted him and gave him in charge."

With a look of alarm Solon Talbot examined his pockets, but ascertained to his relief that nothing was missing.

"Can't you stay with me, Mark?" he asked almost imploringly, for the nervous alarm inspired by the accident had made him quite a different man for the time being. "There is another bed in the room, and you can lie there."

"I will stay with you till morning, Uncle Solon, but I shall have to leave you then, as I have business to attend to."

"What kind of business?"

"I don't care to mention it just now. I am traveling for another party."

"I had no idea there would be an accident," said Mr. Talbot. "Good heavens, we might have been in eternity by this time," he added with a shudder.

"I feel very much alive," said Mark, laughing.

"I suppose the accident will be in the New York morning papers."

"So it will. I must telegraph that I am all right, or my mother will be frightened."

"Telegraph for me too," said Solon Talbot.

"All right. Tell me to whom to telegraph, Uncle Solon, and where."

"To Edgar, I think."

Few more words were spoken, as Mark and his uncle were both dead tired. It was eight o'clock when Mark opened his eyes. He dressed himself as quickly as possible and prepared to go down-stairs. As he was moving toward the door, Mark espied a scrap of paper. It contained what appeared to be a memorandum in his uncle's handwriting.

It was brief, and a single glance revealed its purpose to Mark. It ran thus: "Crane and Lawton told me to-day that their agent writes them from Nevada that the Golden Hope mine is developing great richness. I shouldn't wonder if it would run up to one hundred dollars per share. At this rate the 400 shares I hold will make a small fortune. C. & L. advise holding on for at least six months."

It may be imagined that Mark read this memorandum with interest. He knew very well that the mining stock referred to belonged to his grandfather's estate, but hitherto had been ignorant of the number of shares held by the same. If there were four hundred, and the price ran up to one hundred dollars per share, this would make his mother's share twenty thousand dollars!

This would be a fortune indeed, and it made his blood boil to think that his uncle proposed to cheat her out of it. The munificent sum of twenty-five dollars was all that he had offered for a receipt in full that would give him a title to the whole value of the Golden Hope shares.

Mark turned to the bed.

His uncle was fast asleep. He was not a strong man, and the shock and fatigue of the night previous had quite exhausted him.

"What shall I do with the memorandum?" thought Mark.

He felt that it was not quite the thing to keep a private paper belonging to his uncle, yet under the circumstances, considering that his uncle was deliberately seeking to defraud his mother and himself, he decided that he was justified in doing so. Accordingly he put the memorandum carefully in his pocketbook, and opening the chamber door prepared to go down-stairs.

Just then Solon Talbot opened his eyes.

"Where am I?" he asked, in temporary bewilderment.

"In the Merchants' Hotel," replied Mark. "Don't you remember the accident of last night?"

"Oh, yes," answered Solon shuddering. "Where are you going?"

"Out to telegraph to my mother."

"You have my telegram?"

"Yes."

Mark went out and despatched two telegrams, one to his mother, and the second to Mr. Swan. The latter ran thus: "There has been a railroad accident, but I am all right. Nothing lost."

The last two words were intended to assure the jeweler of the safety of the diamond pin.

Mark ascertained that the next train westward would start at eleven o'clock, and so reported to his uncle.

"I shall go by the next train," he said.

As they went up to the office to pay their bills, the clerk asked Mr. Talbot, "Do you pay for this young man as well as yourself?"

Solon Talbot hesitated and looked confused.

"No," answered Mark promptly, "I pay for myself."

He drew out a ten-dollar bill and tendered it to the clerk.

"You seem to be well provided with money," said his uncle curiously.

"Yes, Uncle Solon, I can pay my way," replied Mark.

"It is very strange," thought Mr. Talbot, "how a common telegraph boy should have so much money."

He did not seem to miss the memorandum. Had he known that it was snugly reposing in Mark's pocketbook he would have felt disturbed.



CHAPTER XV.

A RAILROAD INCIDENT.

Mark pushed on intent upon reaching Cleveland. He decided not to stop off at Niagara till he was on his return. He never for a moment forgot that a great responsibility rested upon him for the safe delivery of the valuable diamond pin intrusted to him by Mr. Swan. When it was safely out of his hands and in those of Mrs. Loring he would feel relieved.

He was within a hundred miles of Cleveland in a car well filled with passengers when his attention was called to a young lady sitting in the seat directly opposite him. She seemed lively and was particularly attractive.

Mark was too young to be deeply impressed by female beauty, but he experienced, like most persons, a greater pleasure in looking at a beautiful than at an ugly object. The young lady had been sitting alone, when a tall man of about forty came up the aisle and paused by her seat.

"Is this seat occupied?" he asked softly.

"No, sir."

"Then I will presume to occupy it."

"He must be a minister," thought Mark.

His clothes were of clerical cut, he wore a white necktie, and on his head was a brown straw hat with wide brim. He folded his hands meekly on his knees, and turned towards his young companion.

"I am sorry to intrude upon you, young lady," Mark heard him say.

"It is no intrusion, sir," answered the girl pleasantly. "I have only paid for one seat, and cannot expect to monopolize two."

"Nevertheless I am sorry if in any way I have intruded upon you. I am, as you may perhaps have inferred from my appearance, a minister."

"I thought you looked like one, sir."

"I am going to make an exchange with a clerical brother."

"Yes, sir," returned the young lady, wondering what interest she could be expected to take in this circumstance.

"I always like to get acquainted with young people. I may perhaps have an opportunity of influencing them for good."

"Just so, sir; but I think such advice is better suited for Sunday, don't you?"

"I am accustomed to drop words of counsel in season, and out of season."

"I would rather listen to them when they are in season."

"True! I stand reproved."

The minister took from his pocket a small volume which he opened and began to read.

"This volume," he said, "contains the sermons of the excellent Dr. Hooker. If I had another copy I should be glad to offer it to you."

"Thank you, I don't care to read just at present."

Half an hour passed. The minister put back his book into his pocket, and bowing politely, bade the young lady good morning.

"I am pleased to have made your acquaintance," he said.

"Thank you, sir."

Five minutes later the young lady put her hand into her pocket. She uttered a cry of alarm.

"What is the matter, miss?" asked Mark.

"My purse is gone!" exclaimed the young lady in a state of nervous excitement.

"When did you last see it?" asked the messenger boy.

"About an hour ago. I bought a copy of MUNSEY'S MAGAZINE of the train boy, and took out my purse to pay for it."

"An hour ago? You were sitting alone at the time?"

"Yes."

"Did any one sit beside you except the old gentleman who has just left?"

"No."

"You are sure it hasn't fallen on the floor?"

"I will look."

The young lady rose and looked about under the seat, but the lost purse was not found.

"I—I don't see how I could have lost it. I have been sitting here all the time."

An idea flashed upon Mark.

"It must have been taken by the man who just left you," he said.

"But that can't be! He was a minister."

"I know he was dressed as a minister, but I don't believe he was one."

"He looked just like one. Besides he was reading a volume of sermons. I can't believe that he would rob me."

"There was one thing that didn't look very ministerial."

"What was that?"

"His nose. Do you not notice how red it was?"

"Yes, but I thought it might be some humor."

"It was colored by whisky, I think. I know topers in New York who have noses exactly like his. You may depend upon it that he has your purse. I hope there wasn't much in it."

"Only about five dollars. Generally the loss would not inconvenience me, but as it is—" and she looked anxious.

"If—if I can be of any service," stammered Mark, "I hope you won't mind saying so. I can lend you five dollars."

The young lady looked grateful, but seemed in doubt as to whether she ought to accept the offer.

"I don't know whether I ought to accept such an offer from a young gentleman—" she said hesitating.

"I am a very young gentleman," said Mark smiling. "I am only sixteen!"

"That is true, and it does make a difference. Are you sure you can spare the money for a day or two."

"Quite so, Miss—"

"Loring," prompted the young lady.

"Are you related to Mrs. Arabella Loring of Cleveland?"

The young lady looked very much surprised.

"She is my mother," she replied. "But how in the world do you know of her?"

"I will tell you later," answered Mark.

He felt that it wouldn't be wise to mention the commission, or let any one know that he had a diamond ring in charge.

"Are you going directly to Cleveland, Miss Loring?"

"Yes, but about thirty miles this side I have a young niece at a boarding school. She will join me on the train, and will expect me to pay her railroad fare. But for that, the loss of the money would have entailed no inconvenience."

Mark drew from his pocket book a five-dollar bill and passed it to Miss Loring.

"But how can I return this to you?" she asked.

"I will call at your house. I am going to Cleveland also."

"Do so. Here is my card."

She took out a small card and tendered it to Mark. On it was inscribed:

Miss Florence Loring. No. 1001-1/2 Euclid Avenue.

"Inquire for me when you call!" she said.

"Thank you."

"It seems so strange that you should know my mother," she continued evidently feeling curious.

Mark smiled.

"You will know in time," he said. "If we were alone I would tell you now."

Here there was a stop at some station, and a shabby and dirty-looking man entered the car. There was but one seat vacant, the one next to Florence Loring.

Mark hastily rose and sat down in it.

"I thought," he said apologetically, "you might prefer me to the man who has just entered the car."

"By all means," she answered with a bright smile. "I prefer you also to the clerical gentleman who rode with me earlier."

"Thank you. When your niece joins you I will vacate the seat in her favor."

Florence Loring was perhaps nineteen, three years older than Mark. She looked upon him quite as a boy, and therefore felt under no constraint.

"Do you come from New York?" she asked.

"Yes."

"You seem young to travel alone."

"I don't think you can be much older than I," said Mark.

"Mercy! I feel ever so much older. I feel old enough to be your aunt."

"I shouldn't mind having you for an aunt," returned Mark.

"On the whole, though, it might prove to be too much of a responsibility. You may be very hard to manage."

"Do you mind my calling you aunt?"

"Well, perhaps it might make me appear too venerable."

"Did you notice, Miss Loring, whether your clerical friend left the cars when he left the seat?"

"No; I didn't feel any particular interest in him, and did not give him a second thought."

"Perhaps he may still be on the train. I have a great mind to go and see."

"I don't think it would do any good. We could not prove that he took my purse."

"If you will excuse me for five minutes I will make a search."

Mark went through the next car and entered the second one, which was a smoking car. He looked about him, and in a seat about the middle of the car he saw the man of whom he was in search. He recognized him by his white tie and his red nose. He was smoking a cigar and gazing out of the car window.

The seat beside him being vacant Mark went forward and sat down in it.

The gentleman with the white tie glanced at him carelessly, but did not appear to think Mark was worthy of attention. He changed his mind when Mark said in a low voice:

"Please give me the purse which you took from a young lady in the second car back."



CHAPTER XVI.

MARK AS A DETECTIVE.

The adventurer turned swiftly when he heard Mark's startling question. He seemed astounded at the boy's audacity.

"What did you say?" he demanded with hauteur.

"I asked you to return the purse which you took from a young lady in the second car back," repeated Mark calmly.

"Boy," said the false minister, "you must be insane or drunk."

"I don't think I am either," returned Mark.

"What do you mean by such nonsense, then? Are you aware that I am a minister of the gospel?"

"Where do you preach?"

"It is of no consequence," said the other loftily. "I am not in habit of being insulted by whipper-snappers like you."

"Are you in the habit of taking young ladies' purses, Mr.——"

"Rev. Mr. Buffington is my name, young man."

"Then, Mr. Buffington, will you answer my question?"

"I shall be tempted to forget my sacred profession and throw you out of the car," said the pseudo minister, looking very unclerical as he spoke.

"I have no doubt you would like to do so."

"You ought to be thrashed for your impertinence."

"Suppose you call the conductor and complain of me. You may tell your story and I will tell mine."

This suggestion seemed fair enough, but it did not appear to strike the Rev. Mr. Buffington favorably.

"I do not care to notice the foolish insolence of a half grown boy," and the pseudo clergyman, taking a paper from his lap, half turned away from Mark, and began to read, or appeared to do so.

Mark, however, did not propose to be bluffed off in this manner.

"Mr. Buffington," he said resolutely, "I am a boy, but I know what I am about. You took the young lady's purse. Before you sat down beside her she had it in her pocket. When you left the car it was gone."

"If I ever get you alone," said Buffington in a low tone of concentrated rage.

"If you do, I hope you won't forget your sacred profession."

"I am a minister, but I am also a gentleman, and I shall resent an insult."

"Look here," said Mark, getting out of patience, "either you give me back that purse for the young lady or I will call the conductor and lay the matter before him."

"Rev." Mr. Buffington tried to turn Mark from his purpose by threats, but he was evidently alarmed. He was conscious of guilt, and he knew how such an appeal would end for him.

Mark saw him waver, and followed up his advantage.

"There was only about five dollars in the purse," he said, "and it won't pay you to keep it. If you give it up without further trouble I won't expose you. What do you say?"

Mr. Buffington looked in Mark's resolute face and he saw that he was in serious earnest. He felt that he was in the boy's power, and much as it galled him, he decided that he must yield.

"It is possible, of course, that the young lady in handling the purse, may have dropped it into my pocket," he said. "I will search for it, and if that is the case it shall be returned."

He thrust his hand into his pocket and drew out the purse.

"I wouldn't have believed it," he murmured. "It is a most extraordinary incident. Is this the young lady's purse?"

Mark took it, and opening it, saw that it contained three dollars in bills, and a dollar and seventy-five cents in silver.

"Yes, sir," he said; "this answers the description."

"Give it back to the young lady with my compliments," said Buffington with unabashed assurance. "Express my regrets at the unfortunate mistake. I now remember how it occurred. I saw the purse on the floor where she had doubtless dropped it, and supposing it to be my own put it into my pocket. I was so busily engaged, reading the volume of sermons which I carry with me that it made little impression on my mind."

"I will tell her what you say, Mr. Buffington," said Mark gravely.

Of course he might have expressed doubt of the accuracy of his companion's statement, but he had accomplished his purpose, and did not care to humiliate Buffington farther.

"Good morning, young man," said Buffington with Christian forgetfulness of Mark's errand.

"Good morning, sir."

When Mark had left the car Buffington's face underwent a change. He looked absolutely ferocious.

"To think I should have been trapped and worsted by a kid!" he said to himself. "The boy is about as cool and resolute as any I ever saw. I hope I shall some day have a chance to get even with him."

Mark returned to his own car and paused at Miss Loring's seat.

"Is this your purse?" he asked, holding it up.

"Yes. Oh, where did you get it?"

"From the party who took it."

"Is he on the smoking car still?"

"Yes he is on the smoking car."

"But—didn't he object to surrendering it?"

"He made a decided objection, but I succeeded in convincing him that it was for his interest to do so."

"You are a remarkable boy," said Florence Loring admiringly.

"Thank you, Miss Loring. You will make me vain if you flatter me."

"But I am quite in earnest. I am now able to return the money you so kindly lent me."

"Are you sure you will not need it?"

"Quite sure."

The hours sped fast. Soon they reached the station where Miss Loring expected to see her niece. She went to the door of the car, and from the platform signaled to a child of eight, who returned the greeting joyfully.

"I was so afraid I should miss you, auntie," said the child.

"I have been on the lookout for you, Gertie. Come in at once."

Of course Mark vacated his seat, and aunt and niece were able to sit together. The messenger boy secured a seat a little nearer the door. He found the journey less interesting now that he was deprived of his fair companion's company.

As they were leaving the train at the Cleveland Station, Florence said, "Gertie, this is Mr. Mason, who has been of great service to me during the journey."

Gertie surveyed Mark attentively. She was an irrepressible young lady, given to plain speaking.

"He ain't your beau, is he, Aunt Florence?" she asked.

Florence smiled and blushed.

"No," she answered. "Don't you see he is younger than I am. He is better suited to be your beau."

"I've got a beau already," said the child unexpectedly.

"Indeed! That is news. What's his name?"

"Dan Sillis. He is a nice boy."

"How old is he?"

"About fifteen."

"Isn't that too old for you?"

"Oh no. Husbands always are older than their wives."

Both Mark and Florence laughed.

"Don't you think you could make room for another beau?" asked Mark.

"No; but if I get tired of Dan I won't mind taking you," responded Gertie with the most perfect gravity.

"I will remember that. If we should get married your Aunt Florence would be my aunt too."

"Can I do anything for you, Miss Loring?" Mark asked as they reached the exterior of the depot.

"If you would be kind enough to call a cab."

Mark did so, and the two young ladies entered.

"I suppose you will call if you have business with mother," said Florence.

"Yes; I shall call to-morrow."

Mark was in doubt where to go, knowing nothing of the hotels in Cleveland, but seeing a stage bearing the name "Erie Hotel," decided to go there.

For obvious reasons I have not given the right name of the hotel. This name will answer so far as our story goes.

He sprang in with his valise and in a few minutes was set down before a comfortable looking hotel of good size.

He entered, and registering his name was assigned to room 96.

"Will you go up-stairs at once, Mr. Mason?" asked the clerk.

"Yes, sir."

Mark followed the hall boy to a room on the third floor.

"Will dinner be ready soon?" he asked.

"It is on the table now, sir."

Mark washed his hands and face, combed his hair, and went down-stairs. He had but one flight to descend, the dining-room being on the second floor.

Even if the dinner had been an indifferent one Mark would have appreciated it, for he was very hungry. When he had satisfied his appetite he had a chance to look around.

What was his surprise when a little farther down the table, on the same side, he recognized his acquaintance of the smoking car, Mr. Buffington!



CHAPTER XVII.

MARK MAKES A CALL ON EUCLID AVENUE.

Mark was not altogether pleased to find that he had not got rid of the railroad adventurer. He recognized him as a dangerous and unprincipled man.

As long as Mark had the diamond pin in his possession, the vicinity of such a fellow meant peril. He decided that he had better lose no time in delivering the pin to Mrs. Loring. He had told Florence that he would call the next day, but really there was no reason why he should not deliver it at once.

About three o'clock he called a cab and directed the driver to drive to No. 1001-1/2 Euclid Avenue. The distance was somewhat more than a mile, and in fifteen minutes he found himself at his destination.

"Shall I wait for you?" asked the hackman.

"No; I may be in the house some time."

He paid for the cab and rang the doorbell.

"Is Mrs. Loring at home?" asked Mark of the servant who answered the bell.

"Yes, sir, but I don't know if she will see you?"

"Tell her that I come from Mr. Swan of New York."

"She will see you," said the servant returning after a short absence.

Mark was ushered into the reception room, and in a few minutes a pleasant-looking woman of middle age entered. She seemed surprised when her glance rested upon Mark.

"Surely you are not Mr. Swan's messenger?" she said.

"Yes, madam."

"And you—have brought the pin?"

"Here it is," said Mark, producing it from his pocket.

Mrs. Loring eagerly opened the casket and uttered an exclamation of delight.

"It is beautiful—just what I wanted," she said.

"Mr. Swan said he thought he knew your taste."

"Did he mention the price?"

"A thousand dollars. Here is the bill."

"I shall not dispute the price, for I have perfect confidence in Mr. Swan. But—isn't it strange that he should have selected so young a messenger?" she continued, regarding Mark with curiosity.

"I agree with you," said Mark, smiling, "but I feel confidence in Mr. Swan's judgment and did not object to come."

"You might have been robbed, if any evil-minded person had known what you carried."

"That is true, but they would not be likely to think a boy would be intrusted with an article of great value."

"That is certainly an important consideration. How long have you been in Mr. Swan's employ?"

"About a week."

"And he trusted you like this?" said the lady in astonishment.

"I am really a telegraph boy. Mr. Swan had known me in that character."

"He certainly paid you a great compliment, and his confidence does not seem to have been misplaced. Shall I pay you for the pin?"

"You can give me a check payable to Mr. Swan, and I will forward it to him by mail."

"I will do so. Can you wait?"

"Oh, yes, Mrs. Loring. I had no business in Cleveland except to deliver this ring."

At that moment Florence Loring entered the room, and to her mother's surprise went up to Mark and offered her hand.

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Mason," she said.

"Thank you, Miss Florence."

"Is this call made on me?"

"Partly," answered Mark smiling, "but I had some business with your mother."

"How in the world did you two get acquainted?" asked Mrs. Loring.

"Don't you remember, mama, what I told you about being robbed by a man who sat next to me, and having my purse returned by a boy—a young gentleman."

"I don't mind being called a boy," said Mark. "I shall be one for some time yet."

"Well?"

"Mr. Mason is the one who recovered my purse. Before that he kindly offered to loan me some money. But what possible business can he have with you?"

"See what he has brought me from New York. He comes from Mr. Swan."

"Oh mama, how lovely! Is it a present for me? You know my birthday comes in eight months."

"My dear child, even if it came to-morrow I should hardly pay a thousand dollars for a birthday gift for you."

"A thousand dollars? It seems even more lovely now that I know the price."

"Remain here, Florence, and entertain Mr. Mason while I go to the library and write a check for the purchase money."

"All right, mama! Mr. Mason, why didn't you tell me what business you had with mama?"

"I shouldn't have minded telling you, but if some one else had heard, your clerical friend for instance, I might have been robbed."

"That is true. I hope I shall never see him again."

"Perhaps you may. I have seen him."

"You have seen him?" ejaculated Florence in surprise. "Where?"

"At the dinner table at my hotel."

"Do you think he is staying there?"

"I only know that I saw him at the table."

"At what hotel are you staying?"

"At the Erie Hotel."

"I hope you will be cautious. He may do you an injury," said Florence with flattering earnestness.

"It was because I saw him that I was anxious to deliver the pin as soon as possible."

"But he wouldn't know you had it."

"He would suppose I had some money for traveling expenses."

"True. And now you will have the large check my mother is to give you."

"I shall not keep it in my possession. I shall go back to the hotel at once and inclose it in a letter to Mr. Swan."

"You seem to be a remarkable boy—I mean you are remarkably sharp for your age."

"Telegraph boys have to be sharp."

"So you are a telegraph boy. Are there any telegraph girls?"

"Not that I know of."

"I am afraid we poor girls would be too easily imposed upon."

"Well, have you entertained Mr. Mason?" asked Mrs. Loring re-entering the room.

"I have done my best, mama. What do you think he tells me? That horrid man that stole my purse is staying at his hotel."

"Then I hope you won't send him an invitation to call here."

"He would call fast enough," suggested Mark, "if he knew what a valuable diamond pin you have in the house."

"Then I hope he won't find out. How did it happen, Florence, you didn't watch him when he was sitting beside you?"

"How could you expect me to watch a man who was engaged in reading a volume of sermons. They were the sermons of Rev. Dr. Hooker."

"Perhaps that is where he learned hooking," laughed Mark.

"That's a good joke!" said Florence. "By the way, mama, have you tickets for the theater this evening?"

"Yes, but one won't be used. Louisa Frost can't go."

"Then suppose you give it to Mr. Mason. I am sure he would enjoy the play."

"Well thought of, Florence. Won't you get one of the tickets? You will find them on my bureau, that is if our young friend has no other engagement."

"I have none whatever," said Mark promptly. "You are very kind, Mrs. Loring."

"You must thank Florence. If you were a few years older I should be afraid she had designs upon you. It is leap year, you know."

"Now, mama, what will Mr. Mason think of me? I am propriety personified."

Mark concluded his call and left the house, well pleased at having successfully carried out his instructions. He went back directly to the hotel, and sitting down in the reading room wrote the following letter to his employer:

"HENRY SWAN, ESQ.,

"DEAR SIR: I have delivered the diamond ring, and inclose Mrs. Loring's check for a thousand dollars in payment. She is very much pleased with it, and says it exactly suits her. I have had a pleasant journey, and expect to start on my return to-morrow.

"Yours respectfully, "MARK MASON."

As he was writing the address some one passed behind his chair and looked over his shoulder at the superscription.

It was the "Rev." Mr. Buffington, as he called himself.

His eye lighted up as he saw to whom the letter was addressed.

"So this boy is traveling for a New York jeweler," he said to himself. "I am glad to know this. He probably carries a stock of jewelry with him, and if so, I shall cultivate his acquaintance."

He passed out of the reading room without Mark observing him. Mr. Buffington took care to keep out of the way, and Mark supposed he had left the hotel.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A MIDNIGHT VISIT.

Mark was confirmed in his belief that Mr. Buffington had left the hotel, because on looking over the book he found no such name. It did not occur to him that Lawrence Perkins was his railroad friend under another alias. Mr. Buffington was rich in names, and had masqueraded under at least a dozen. He, however, had seen Mark's name in the register, and noted carefully the number of his room. The information seemed to him important, especially after he had looked over Mark's shoulder and found that he represented a prominent jeweler in New York.

Mark did not fail to keep his appointment at the theater. He arrived first, but five minutes later Mrs. Loring, Florence and a young man, cousin to the latter, made their appearance.

Florence smiled pleasantly, and arranged the party so that Mark should sit beside her.

"Now, George," she said to her cousin, "make yourself agreeable to mama, and I will try to entertain Mr. Mason."

"No flirting, Florence," cautioned her cousin.

"Did you ever know me to flirt?" asked Florence in mock indignation.

"Well, occasionally."

"Very well, if I have the reputation I may as well deserve it," and she proceeded to chat with Mark.

In the gallery, among the cheap seats, sat Mr. Buffington, who wanted to while away the evening in a pleasant but economical manner. He did not immediately discover Mark below, but after a time recognized him.

"It is just as well I came here," he reflected, "as the kid won't get to bed till late. Wonder who his friends are. That young lady looks stylish."

Buffington took good care when the play was over to keep out of the way of the throng issuing from the main entrance. He made his way to the hotel by a devious course, and on arriving went up to his room. Mark came in not long after him, and went up to bed at once. He felt quite tired, but was well pleased with his experiences thus far. He had got rid of his responsibility, having delivered the diamond ring, received pay therefor and forwarded the check to his principal in New York.

"Now I can have a comfortable night's rest," he reflected.

He had nearly fifty dollars with him, but this seemed a trifle compared with the diamond pin. Still he considered in what way he could secure this from chance of theft.

There seemed, however, to be very little danger. He had locked the door inside, leaving the key in the lock. There was no door communicating with any other room. After some consideration he decided to hide the wallet containing his money, not under his pillow, but under the sheet at the lower part of the bed where he could feel it with his feet.

"I guess I'll find it safe in the morning," he said to himself.

Now that he was relieved from all anxiety he composed himself to sleep, and in less than ten minutes he was unconscious of all around him.

About an hour later Mr. Buffington in bare feet stood in front of Mark's door. Through the open transom he could hear the boy's peaceful breathing.

"He is fast asleep," he said to himself with satisfaction. "I know how boys sleep, especially when they are tired. I don't think there will be much risk in carrying out my scheme."

He had a skeleton key which would readily have opened the door had the key not been in the lock on the inside. This fact he soon ascertained.

"It will make it harder for me," he reflected, "but there is the transom. I shall have to make use of that."

Mr. Buffington, to use the name by which we first knew him, had some experience as a gymnast. He drew himself up to a level with the transom, and then with considerable difficulty managed to get through.

The room was partially illuminated with moonlight. First of all, on descending on the other side, he turned the key in the lock so as to afford himself a way of easy escape in case of need.

Though he made some noise in landing Mark was too sound asleep to be aware of it.

"Now where does the boy keep his valuables?" Buffington asked himself.

He searched all Mark's pockets, even to the vest, but without finding anything.

Next he turned his attention to the gripsack, but that proved to contain only wearing apparel. But Mr. Buffington was sharp enough to understand the ways of wary travelers. He went to the bed, and gently slid his hand under the pillow. That is the most common hiding-place for watches and other valuables. But he made no discovery.

Buffington paused to reflect on the situation.

"The kid has certainly got a pocketbook," he soliloquized. "He can't travel without money. Now where is it? That is the question."

He had searched everywhere else. He decided that it must be concealed somewhere about the bed. Finally he made a correct guess.

He approached the bed at the lower end, and raising the covering began to feel about in the neighborhood of Mark's feet. Now, as probably all my young readers know from personal experience, the feet are very sensitive, and there are few who are not "ticklish."

Mark who had been unconscious of the intruder's presence till now speedily became aware that some one was fumbling about his feet. On the impulse of the moment he drew one foot back and extended it suddenly in the act of kicking.

Mr. Buffington withdrew his hand swiftly, and looked anxiously at the sleeper.

Mark's eyes did not open, and the burglar resolved after a suitable pause to continue his investigations. But Mark's slumbers, since the interruption, were not as sound as before. When the visitor continued his manipulations he woke suddenly, and opening his eyes took in the situation. He recognized Mr. Buffington's features and at once was wide awake.

But for the fact that the burglar was dangerously near the money he would have allowed him to keep on. As it was he thought it time to interfere. He gave a vigorous kick, and called out, "Who's there?"

Buffington understood that his scheme was defeated. To rob Mark when he was awake was to run too much risk.

He sprang for the door which he had unlocked, as already noted, and opening it dashed out into the corridor. Mark did not propose to facilitate his flight. He sprang from the bed and called out in a loud tone, "Help! Thieves!"

Now it so happened that the watchman attached to the hotel was just making his rounds and was not far off. He ran to the spot, caught sight of the flying figure of the departing burglar, and caught him by the shoulder.

Buffington was a strong man, and could have got away from a man of ordinary muscles. But the watchman was a man of more than average strength, having served as porter before he had been transferred to the post of watchman and detective.

He gripped Buffington in a vise-like grasp.

"No, my man," he said, "you don't get away so easy. Stand still, and give an account of yourself."

"I am a guest of the hotel," said Buffington sullenly.

"Then why are you not in bed?"

"Because I had a severe headache and thought I would take a little walk in the corridor."

"What made you come into my room?" demanded Mark, who now appeared on the scene.

"I didn't know whose room it was. I thought it was my own."

"How did you get in? The door was locked."

"No, it wasn't," answered Buffington boldly. "You thought you locked it, but you didn't. Trying the knob it opened at once, and I supposed it was my own which I had left unlocked."

"Is that true?" asked the watchman, looking doubtfully at Mark.

"No, it isn't. I took special pains to lock the door, for I knew that there was a possibility of my room being entered."

"Then he must have got through the transom. We have had such cases before."

"If you have finished asking foolish questions I will go back to bed," said Buffington with remarkable assurance.

"Wait a minute. Did you see this man in your room?"

The question was addressed to Mark.

"Yes. I woke up while he was there."

"What was he doing?"

"Searching for my purse. He was fumbling about the bedclothes at the foot of the bed."

"Was your money there?"

"Yes."

Buffington's face contracted with disappointment. He had been on the brink of success, when Mark, unfortunately for him, awoke.

"And you spoke to him?"

"Yes."

"What then?"

"He sprang for the door, and would have escaped if you had not caught him."

"Did you ever see the man before?"

"I saw him on the train coming here for the first time."

"Did anything happen on the train?"

"Yes. He stole a young lady's pocketbook. I made him give it up."

Buffington looked at Mark menacingly. He would have liked to wreak his vengeance upon him.

"Do you know his name?"

"He calls himself Rev. Mr. Buffington."

The watchman laughed grimly.

"Sorry to disturb you, reverend sir," he said, "but I shall be obliged to lock you in your room till morning."

Buffington shrugged his shoulders.

"All right!" he said. "I shall at any rate secure a good night's sleep."

The watchman did as he suggested. He shut the burglar in his room, and locked the door from the outside.

"Now," he said to Mark, "you can sleep undisturbed for the balance of the night."



CHAPTER XIX.

AT NIAGARA FALLS.

Although Mark was inclined to pity any man deprived of his liberty, he felt pleased to think that Buffington's career was cut short for a time. There was little doubt that he would be imprisoned for a time more or less extended.

"How much better it would be for him," thought Mark, "if he had earned his living in some honest way!"

Stealing may seem an easy way of obtaining money, but the one who depends on it is likely to be brought up with a round term at last.

When Mark went down in the morning the clerk said to him, "So you had a little excitement in your room last night, the watchman tells me."

"Yes; I had a visitor, but fortunately he was caught without securing anything. He was about to take my pocketbook when I woke up. I was lucky, for I might have found myself unable to pay my bill here."

"We would have given you time. We can tell by your face that you are honest."

"Thank you. Has Buffington been taken from his room yet?"

"Buffington? I don't know any such name."

"That is what he gave me as his name."

"He is down on our books as Lawrence Perkins."

"He seems to have more than one name."

"He may have a dozen. Such gentry usually do. I will send you a couple of policemen and have him taken round to the station-house."

Two policemen were summoned and soon made their appearance. They went up-stairs, preceded by the clerk. He opened the door of the adventurer's room and entered.

"He isn't here!" he exclaimed in surprise, turning to the two officers.

"Not here?"

There was no need to ask how Perkins, or Buffington, whichever name he claimed, had escaped. He had made use of the fire-escape and had disappeared.

"He seems to have slept here," remarked one of the policeman, pointing to the bed.

"Yes."

"He must have escaped early this morning."

"I wonder I did not think of the fire-escape."

"He didn't call at the office and pay his bill, I suppose."

"No. He was probably in too great a hurry."

"If you will give us a description of him we can warn the public against him."

"I didn't notice him particularly. I have to deal with so many that I don't scrutinize any one closely, unless there seems to be especial reason for doing so. This boy," pointing to Mark, "saw him on the car, and can describe him to you."

Mark gave what information he could and then went to breakfast.

"I hope I shan't meet him again," he reflected. "I am not anxious to keep up the acquaintance."

About noon he took a train for Niagara Falls, and didn't leave it till he reached Suspension Bridge. He arrived too late to see the cataract, and proceeded at once to a modest hotel in the village where the price charged was two dollars per day.

He might have gone to the International Hotel, and would have been justified in doing so, but he thought it right to be careful of his employer's money. He looked over the book, half expecting to meet the name of Buffington or Perkins, but found neither.

"I hope I have seen my last of him," he said to himself.

He did not feel obliged to take any extra precautions, but slept peacefully and long. After breakfast he started out to see the Falls. He was resolved to see them thoroughly no matter how much time might be required in the process.

"I wish mother were here," he thought. "Some time if I can afford it I will bring her here."

This resolve gave him satisfaction, though there seemed little prospect of his soon being in a condition to carry out his wish.

Mark had no idea of meeting any one whom he knew. He was but a boy, and his acquaintance was limited. Already, however, it included three persons whom he would have been glad to be assured he would never meet again. One of these was Buffington, the other two were Hamilton Schuyler and Jack Minton, the nephew of old Mrs. Mack, who lived in the same tenement house in New York with his mother.

He supposed Jack to be in New York and therefore his surprise may be imagined when he heard a hoarse voice behind him saying, "Well, I'll be blowed, if it isn't the kid! How are you, kid?"

Mark did not suppose that he was referred to, but with natural curiosity he turned to observe the speaker.

He saw Jack Minton, rough and uncouth as when he last met him, advancing to meet him.

"You're about the last bloke as I expected to see here, kid," observed Jack, his face still betraying surprise. "What brought you here?"

"Business," answered Mark briefly.

"They don't send telegraph boys as far as this, do they?"

"Well, not often, but I was sent here, and I came."

"What were you sent for?"

"That is my employer's business, and I don't feel at liberty to tell."

"Oh well, I ain't at all partic'lar to know. But it seems good to meet a friend so far away."

"How long have I been his friend?" thought Mark.

"I say, kid, we'll celebrate on that. Come in and have a drink."

They were passing a saloon, and Minton turned his steps towards it.

"No, thank you, Mr. Minton. I am not thirsty."

"Oh, hang it! Who cares whether you are thirsty or not? You ain't goin' to turn against a friend, are you?"

It was clear that Jack Minton had already satisfied his thirst two or three times, for his face was flushed and his step unsteady.

Mark saw that his refusal would make Minton angry, and he accepted his invitation.

"What will you have, kid?" asked Jack, staggering to the counter.

"A glass of sarsaparilla."

"Oh, don't have sarsaparilla? It's only fit for old women and young children. Take whisky."

"No; it must be sarsaparilla or nothing."

"Just as you say. Barkeeper, give me some whisky straight, and give the kid sarsaparilla if he wants it."

The orders were filled. Jack tossed down a glass of fiery whisky, which made his face even redder than before, and then drawing from his pocket a roll of bills, settled for both drinks.

Mark was surprised at the abundance of money his companion seemed to have. When they met in New York Jack was very hard up, and had only succeeded in obtaining twenty five-cents from his parsimonious aunt.

After drinking the whisky Jack sank into a chair, finding a sitting position more comfortable under the circumstances.

"Have you seen your aunt lately, Mr. Minton?" Mark asked.

"Who's my aunt?" hiccoughed Jack, "I ain't got no aunt."

"I mean Mrs. Mack, the old lady who lives in St. Mark's place."

"I don't know anything about—'bout Mrs. Mack," answered Minton with a cunning look. "What sh'd I know of Miss—Mrs. Mack?"

"She's your aunt, isn't she?"

"She used to be, but she's a bad old woman. I don't want to see her again."

"She would be very glad to hear that," thought Mark.

"When did you come to Niagara?"

"I d'n'ow, do you? Don't ask me any more of your fool questions," answered Jack with uncontrollable irritation. "Did I pay you for the drinks?" he asked, turning to the barkeeper.

"Yes, you paid me."

"Thought I did—didn't know."

As he spoke, Jack Minton's head fell forward on the table, and he closed his eyes. The last potation was too much for him.

"You'd better take your friend away," said the barkeeper, eying Jack without much favor. "I don't want him to go to sleep here!"

"He's no friend of mine," answered Mark.

"Didn't you come in with him? Didn't he treat you?"

"Yes, but I only accepted because he looked quarrelsome, and I was afraid he might take offense if I refused."

"If I let him stay here I shall charge him extra."

"Do as you like! I never saw him but once before, and I don't care to have anything to do with him. I wish you would let me pay for that sarsaparilla I had. I don't want to feel that he treated me."

"He has paid, and I can't take pay twice."

"Then take the money and return it to him."

Mark without waiting to see if his proposal was accepted put a dime on the counter, and left the saloon. He met a newsboy with copies of a morning Buffalo paper. He bought one, and turning to New York news, his eyes fell upon a paragraph which surprised and excited him.



CHAPTER XX.

A NEWSPAPER PARAGRAPH.

This was the paragraph that attracted Mark's attention:

"This morning Mrs. Rachel Mack, an old woman over seventy years of age, living in an upper room at No. 174 St. Mark's Place, was found insensible in her room, as the result of an attack made by some person unknown. When found she seemed very much frightened and was unable to give a coherent account of what had happened.

"From marks upon her throat it was clear that her assailant had nearly strangled her. His intention was obvious. Though living in a poor room amid squalid surroundings, neighbors testified that Mrs. Mack is comparatively rich, being in fact a female miser, and this was doubtless known to her assailant. The old woman testified that she kept one hundred dollars in bills in the bureau drawer. This sum was missing, having evidently been taken by the person who attacked her.

"She was not in a condition to throw much light upon the affair, being dazed and confused. When she recovers from her temporary stupefaction she may be able to give the police a clew that will lead to the arrest of the man who robbed her."

When Mark read this paragraph he decided at once that Jack Minton, Mrs. Mack's nephew, was the old woman's assailant. Jack had evidently left the city by the first outgoing train, considering that at Niagara he would be safe. So indeed he might have been but for the chance that threw Mark and himself together. So it happened that the telegraph boy held in his hand the clew to the mysterious attack. In his hand probably lay the liberty of Minton.

What should he do?

While Mark was not especially fond of the old woman, he felt indignant with her burly nephew for attacking her, and was clearly of the opinion that he ought to be punished. After a little consideration he decided to call at the office of the local police and put the matter in their hands.

He inquired the way to the police office. A pleasant-looking man in the uniform of a sergeant was on duty.

"Well, young man, what can I do for you?" he asked.

"Please read this paragraph, sir, and then I will tell you."

The sergeant read the newspaper notice attentively.

"Well?" he said inquiringly.

"The man who I think committed the assault is in a saloon only a quarter of a mile distant."

"Who is it?"

"A nephew of the old lady."

"But what makes you think he is the guilty party?"

"He has once before visited Mrs. Mack, and tried to extort money from her."

"How do you know this?"

"Because I live in the same house with Mrs. Mack. She occupies the room directly over where my mother and myself live."

"Then you live in New York?"

"Yes, sir."

"How do you happen to be here?"

"I came on business for a New York jeweler."

"What is the name of the party you suspect?"

"Jack Minton."

"Do you know anything of his character or antecedents?"

"He is a criminal. He has been confined at Sing Sing prison for a term of years."

"That alone is a ground of suspicion. Now how do you know he is here?"

"I met him less than an hour since."

"Did you speak to him?"

"Yes."

"State the particulars of your interview."

"He recognized me and invited me into a saloon to take a drink."

"And you accepted?"

"Yes, sir."

"I hardly approve of a boy of your age accepting such an invitation."

"I only drank a glass of sarsaparilla."

"I am glad to hear it. I have a son about your age, and I should be sorry to have him drink whisky."

"There is no danger of my doing that," said Mark quietly. "I have a good mother. For her sake, if not for my own, I would not drink liquor."

"That does you credit. Now as to your information it may prove important. Have you anything to corroborate your suspicion?"

"Yes, sir. Jack Minton seemed to have plenty of money. When he paid the barkeeper for our drinks I saw him pull out a roll of bills. When he was in New York he had no money at all, and succeeded in obtaining only twenty-five cents from his aunt."

"This is an important bit of information. I could order the arrest of Minton, however, on your information without orders from New York. I will telegraph to Inspector Byrnes, and will act in accordance with any orders I may receive from him."

"Shall you need to see me again?"

"Give me your name and address and I will communicate with you if necessary."

"My name is Mark Mason, and I am staying at the International Hotel."

"If convenient, come here in about two hours."

"All right, sir."

Two hours later Mark returned to the police station.

"Oh, here you are!" said the sergeant with a friendly nod. "Well, I have heard from New York."

"Have you, sir?" asked Mark eagerly. "From Inspector Byrnes?"

"Yes."

"What does he say?"

"Here is his telegram."

Mark took it in his hand and read these words:

"Hold the suspected party. Ask the boy to remain. Will send officer by next train.

"BYRNES."

"You see that you are requested to remain. Can you do so?"

"Yes, sir."

"I am glad of it, as your testimony will be important. Now I will send a couple of officers with you to the saloon that you may identify Minton. We don't want to make any mistake."

"All right, sir."

Of course there was a chance that Minton might have left the saloon, or been turned out by the proprietor. But fortunately he was so stupefied that the latter had put him in an inner room, and kept him there till he was in a better condition to move.

By direction of the officers Mark entered the saloon alone.

He did not wish to excite suspicion, and therefore going up to the bar ordered a glass of lemon soda.

While he was drinking it he asked: "Is the man I came in with a little while ago still here?"

"Yes, and I wish you would get him out."

"Where is he?"

"Inside. He has been snoring till my regular customers asked me who I had in there."

"Very well. If you will show me where he is I will get him out for you."

The barkeeper opened a door leading to an inner room. On a settee lay Jack Minton breathing heavily. His eyes were closed and he was quite unconscious of his position.

"I don't believe you can stir him," said the barkeeper.

"I will call a friend then."

Mark went to the door and beckoned to the two officers.

When they came in the barkeeper looked dismayed.

"Am I in trouble?" he asked.

"No, but we want the man."

"What has he done?"

"Committed a murderous assault on a party in New York."

"Well, he looks as if he were capable of it. You can take him. I shall offer no resistance."

One of the officers went forward and shook Jack Minton vigorously.

"Wha's the matter?" muttered Jack, not opening his eyes.

"Wake up and see."

"I'm sleepy. Le' me alone!" hiccoughed Jack.

"Give a hand here," said the officer, signaling to to his companion.

With no gentle hand they pulled Jack from the settee, and stood him up on his feet.

Then for the first time he opened his eyes, and stupefied as he was, he realized that he was in the hands of policemen.

"Wha's all this?" he muttered. "What have I done?"

"You're wanted in New York."

"New York? Never was there in my life."

"Do you know an old lady named Mack?"

"I—I didn't do it. I tell you I didn't do it. It was somebody else."

Mark and the officers looked at each other significantly. The drunken man had unintentionally given himself away. Just then his glance fell on Mark.

"It's the kid," he said. "What's all this mean, kid?"

"I'll tell you, Mr. Minton. Your aunt, Mrs. Mack, has been attacked and robbed."

"Is she—dead?" asked Jack eagerly.

"No."

"She is my aunt. If she dies I'll get all her money. Take me to a good hotel. I'm sleepy."

It was clear that Jack did not fully realize the situation. Next morning, however, when the two New York officers arrived, he realized it fully and charged Mark with betraying him. They went to New York in the same train, Jack wearing handcuffs.



CHAPTER XXI.

MARK RETURNS HOME.

"Welcome home, Mark!" exclaimed Mrs. Mason with radiant face as the telegraph boy opened the door of their humble apartment.

"Then you have missed me?" said Mark smiling.

"It has seemed a long time since you went away. Did you have a successful trip?"

"Yes, indeed. Mr. Swan was so well satisfied that he gave me fifteen dollars besides paying the telegraph company for my services. I shall be paid my regular wages by them also."

"Poor Mrs. Mack has been attacked and robbed of a hundred dollars since you went away."

"I read a paragraph about it copied from the New York papers. How is she now?"

"She is confined to her bed. The villain, whoever he was, nearly choked her, and the shock was so great that it quite prostrated her."

"Were you at home when the attack took place?"

"No; I had gone out on an errand. Meanwhile the rascal escaped. I suppose it was her nephew."

"I have brought him back to stand trial."

"You!" exclaimed his mother in amazement.

"Yes; I met him at Niagara, and on reading the paragraph I concluded that he was the thief, especially as he seemed to be well provided with money. On my information a telegram was sent to Inspector Byrnes, and he was brought back on the same train with me."

"Go up and tell Mrs. Mack. It will do her good."

Mark went up-stairs with his mother. The old lady, looking unusually feeble, was lying on the bed.

"How do you feel, Mrs. Mack?" asked Mark.

"I'm almost dead," groaned the old woman. "I've been robbed and almost murdered since you went away, Mark."

"Who did it?"

"Who but that rascal Jack Minton, and he my own nephew!"

"Are you sure it was he?"

"Yes, I saw him and talked with him."

"Tell me about it."

"He come in while I was sitting in the rocking chair and asked me for some money. He begged and implored but I would give him nothing. Then he began to threaten, and I said I would call you. 'If you do I'll kill the kid,' he said. Then he put his hand around my throat and almost choked me.

"I fainted away, and when I came to he was gone and a hundred dollars was taken from the bureau, all I had to keep me from the poor-house," added the old woman whimpering. "But I'll get even with him. He thinks he'll have the little I have to leave because he is my nephew. He'll find himself mistaken. I'll make a will—I'll——"

"Mrs. Mack, I have something to tell you that will please you."

"Has my money been found?" asked the old woman eagerly.

"Your nephew has been arrested and he is now in the hands of the police."

"Heaven be praised! I don't mind the money now. And where was he found?"

"I found him at Niagara Falls and had him arrested."

"You're a good boy, Mark, and you won't be sorry for helping a poor old woman; no, you won't be sorry. Tell me all about it."

Mark told the story, and it so cheered up the old woman that she got up from her bed and the next day was as well as ever. She no longer complained of her loss of money. Her satisfaction in the retribution which had overtaken her nephew was so great that it overcame every other feeling.

When the trial came on she even succeeded in getting to the court room where she positively identified Jack Minton as her assailant, and her evidence procured his conviction. He was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment at Sing Sing.

"He'll not trouble me again," said Mrs. Mack triumphantly as she walked out of court leaning on Mark's arm. The prisoner glared at the pair and his hands were clenched.

"If I could only get at 'em I'd kill 'em both!" he muttered, but in his position his threats were futile.

Two days afterwards Mrs. Mason was surprised by another call from Solon Talbot.

He looked about him as he entered the room and his eyes lighted up with satisfaction as he noted the evidences of poverty. Though Mark was now better off no new furniture had been bought. He was waiting till he would feel justified in securing better apartments for his mother.

Mrs. Mason looked surprised when her brother-in-law entered.

"Have you moved into the city yet, Mr. Talbot?" she asked.

"Yes; I arrived yesterday."

"How is Mary? Is she with you?"

"Yes."

"I should like to see her. Where are you located?"

"Why, the fact is, we are not located yet."

"I should be glad to see Mary. It is so long since we have met."

"I can't ask you to call as we are so unsettled. In a short time she will come and call upon you."

"I hope so. It is tantalizing to think she is in the same city, and yet not to meet."

"We all have our duties, and her duty is to her husband and son. I was surprised a few days since to meet Mark on the Central road."

"Yes; he went to Cleveland on business."

"Indeed! has he returned yet?"

"He returned two days since."

"For whom was he traveling?"

"I don't know that it is any secret. He had a business commission from Mr. Swan, a Broadway jeweler."

"He must be a strange business man to select a boy to travel for him."

"He made no mistake in selecting Mark. He professed himself well pleased with him."

"Humph! it may have turned out right in a single instance. When I select an agent I prefer to employ a man."

"How is Edgar?"

"He is well. I am looking for a position for him. I have hopes of getting him into the office of a prominent broker on Wall Street."

"I shall be glad to hear that he is doing well. He is about the age of Mark."

"True, but their paths will lie apart. My, ahem! position will secure for Edgar an entrance into fashionable society, while your son, though doubtless a deserving boy, must necessarily associate with his equals."

"Mark has some excellent friends," said Mrs. Mason, nettled.

"No doubt, no doubt. I have not a word to say derogatory of him except that he is inclined to be conceited."

"I suppose Edgar is quite free from that fault."

"Well no, perhaps not, but he has a social position to maintain. However, this is not what I came to talk about. You remember that when I was last here I asked your signature to a statement that you had received your rightful portion of your father's estate."

"I remember it."

"I offered you a small sum in consideration of this release. As the administrator I find it desirable to have it in order that I may render a final account."

"I remember the circumstances."

"I think you made some objection—a foolish one, to which you were instigated probably by your son Mark."

"I remember that too."

"No doubt the boy was honest in his advice, but I need hardly suggest to you how incompetent a boy of his age is as an adviser in a serious business matter. Well, I have come this morning on the same business, but I wish to be liberal. I think it only fair to take your circumstances into consideration. I am ready to give you a hundred dollars if you will sign the paper I have here."

"Let me see the paper, Solon."

Mr. Talbot took from his pocket a folded document which he placed before his sister-in-law.

It ran thus:

"I hereby acknowledge that I have received from Solon Talbot, administrator of the estate of my late father, Elisha Doane, my full share in that estate, and I hereby release him from all further claim on my part to said estate."

"Sign here, if you please," said Solon suavely, "and I will give you the sum promised."

As he spoke he drew from his wallet a roll of ten ten-dollar bills, which he judged would look tempting to a woman of Mrs. Mason's limited means.

"If you will leave this paper here, Solon," said the widow, "I will show it to Mark when he gets home, and ask his advice."

Mr. Talbot frowned and looked vexed.

"Ask advice of a boy of sixteen!" he sneered. "Surely you are better able to judge what is best than he."

"I am not sure about that. At any rate he is interested, and I prefer to wait till I see him."

"Then the offer of a hundred dollars is withdrawn."

"Just as you think best, Solon. I shall not sign without consulting Mark."

"Well, I will leave the paper, then," said Talbot, finding it hard to conceal his chagrin. "I hope for your sake that Mark will advise you sensibly."

"I think he will. He is young, but he has always shown good judgment."

"Confound the woman!" muttered Talbot, as he left the house. "It is most provoking to have her act in this way. Should she hear of the Golden Hope mine it would be most disastrous. Once let me obtain her release and I can sell it out for my own advantage."



CHAPTER XXII.

A CRAFTY SCHEMER.

"Your uncle has been here, Mark," said Mrs. Mason, when Mark reached home.

"I can tell you what business he came about, mother."

"He wanted my signature to a paper acknowledging that I had received my full share of father's estate."

"You didn't give it?" inquired Mark anxiously.

"No; I would not take such an important step without your knowledge."

"I feel much relieved. I have not told you what I found on my journey to Niagara."

"What is it?"

"That Uncle Solon is trying to cheat you out of a large sum of money."

"Is that possible? But father did not leave a fortune."

"So we all supposed. What if I should tell you that he left you enough to make you comfortable for life on your share."

Mrs. Mason looked incredulous.

"Here, read this memorandum, mother," and Mark explained briefly how he came into possession of it.

"Tell me what it all means, Mark. I have a poor head for business."

"It means that grandfather owned four hundred shares of the Golden Hope mine in Colorado. Probably he bought it for a small sum. But it has proved unexpectedly rich, and it will probably soon be worth one hundred dollars a share. That means twenty thousand dollars for you, mother."

"And Solon Talbot wants me to relinquish my claim for a hundred dollars!" exclaimed Mrs. Mason indignantly.

"Exactly so, mother."

"Then I will give him a piece of my mind when he comes here this afternoon."

"Don't do it, mother. It is our policy to make him think we are ignorant of the existence of this important item in grandfather's estate. Only you must steadily refuse to sign a release."

"I will. I hope you will be here when he calls."

"I will get off for the afternoon. I wish to be here myself. I have a little headache, which will give me an excuse."

When Solon Talbot called on his sister-in-law about three o'clock in the afternoon he was rather disgusted to find Mark at home. He knew that Mark was much more clear-sighted than his mother, and he feared that he would influence her to refuse her signature.

"Good afternoon, Ellen," he said suavely.

"Take a seat, Mr. Talbot," said Mrs. Mason coldly.

"How do you happen to be at home, Mark?" asked Solon, regarding Mark with a slight frown.

"I got excused for the afternoon. I have a headache."

"Perhaps you won't mind going out for a few minutes. I wish to speak to your mother on business."

"Do you wish me to go out, mother?" asked Mark.

"No. Whatever affects you affects me. Besides, I may want your advice."

"I don't ask Edgar for advice," returned Solon Talbot dryly.

"I suppose not. You are a business man, and can judge better than he. I am not a business man."

"You are older than Mark."

"I have always found Mark a safe and good adviser."

"You will spoil him by such flattery."

"I am not afraid of it."

"Very well. I will humor your prejudices. Mark may have more judgment than I give him credit for."

This he said because he saw that it was necessary under the circumstances to propitiate Mark. The telegraph boy understood his uncle's object very well and was amused, but remained outwardly grave.

"Thank you, uncle," he said briefly.

"I will address myself, then, to both of you. You will remember that I offered you a hundred dollars in cash—I have the money with me," he added, tapping his pocket—"if you will sign acknowledgment that you have received your full share of your father's estate. It is a mere form, but I want to wind the whole business up and have it off my hands."

"I can't sign such a paper at present, Solon."

"Why not?"

"Because I am not sure that I have received my full share."

"Don't you believe my assurance to that effect?" said Solon Talbot impatiently.

"It is an important matter, and I have no evidence but your word."

"Do you doubt my word?"

"In this matter your interests and mine might clash."

"Then let me tell you that you are getting more than your share—that is, when I have paid you the hundred dollars. The fact is, your father left a very small estate. After paying his funeral expenses and debts there was scarcely anything over, and off that little you have already had your share. Still I understand your position and sympathize with you in your poverty, and therefore I am willing to strain a point and give you a hundred dollars."

If Mr. Talbot expected his sister-in-law to look grateful he was doomed to disappointment.

"A hundred dollars," he continued, "is a good deal of money, especially in your circumstances. I am sure Mark will agree with me in this."

"It is more than all the money we have," replied Mark.

"Precisely. It will make things easy for you for a year to come. By that time Mark will probably be earning higher pay than at present, and so your mind will be quite at ease."

"You are very considerate, Solon, but I think I would rather not sign."

"Why, this is midsummer madness. I am sure Mark will not advise you to refuse."

"I quite agree with my mother," said Mark.

"Well," returned Talbot angrily, "I have heard of foolish people, but I must own that you two beat the record."

"Why are you so anxious that my mother should sign a release, Uncle Solon," asked Mark quietly.

"Because I wish to have the whole matter settled and off my hands, as I have told you. I have business interests exclusively my own that demand my attention, and I don't want to be bothered by this small matter."

"I have no doubt you have good reasons for wishing mother to sign," said Mark.

"What do you mean?" demanded Solon suspiciously.

"Only that you are a good business man, and understand your own interests."

"I wish I could say the same for you," retorted Solon Talbot sharply.

"Perhaps we do."

"I ought not to be surprised at meeting opposition from a woman and a boy, both ignorant of business. As a rule those who know nothing think they know the most and are most suspicious. However, I can afford to overlook your unexpected obstinacy. I will do what I had no idea of doing when I entered the room. I will increase my offer to a hundred and twenty-five dollars. That is certainly handsome, and I shall not let Mrs. Talbot and Edgar know how foolishly I have acted."

As he spoke he laid the paper before Mrs. Mason.

"Here is a fountain pen," he said. "You can sign at once."

"I don't care to sign, Solon."

"Have you been talking to your mother, Mark?" demanded Talbot sharply. "Have you put her up to this?"

"We had a little talk together, but I think she is just as determined on the subject as I am."

"Then," said Solon Talbot, "I can only regard your refusal as an act of hostility. Evidently you want to break with me and mine. It was my intention to invite you both to take dinner at my house to-morrow; but, as matters stand, we cannot receive you, and I shall forbid Mrs. Talbot to call upon you."

"I shall be sorry to be separated from my sister," said Mrs. Mason in a pained tone, "but I cannot sign away my own and my children's rightful inheritance."

"I don't know what you mean by this nonsense. I have offered you more than your share of your rightful inheritance, as you see fit to call it. If you choose to return my kindness with ingratitude, I can only leave you to the consequences of your own folly."

He looked first at Mark and then at his mother to see how this speech affected them, but both looked firm, and there seemed to be nothing to do but to leave them. He took his hat and strode to the door, his hands trembling with nervous anger. But at the door he paused.

"If you come to your senses," he said, "and desire to accept my offer, Mark can call on me. I hate to see you so blind to your own interests."

After he had left the room Mark and his mother looked at each other.

"Uncle Solon seemed very much in earnest," said Mark.

"Yes; I am now ready to believe that he is conspiring to cheat us. It is shameful! He is a rich man already, and we are so poor."

"But we shan't be long, mother."

"You must take good care of that memorandum, Mark."

"I shall carry it to a young lawyer whom I know well, and ask his advice about it. When the right time comes I shall bring it forward. I will ask him to keep it in his safe."

"Very well, Mark. I think that will be wise."

The next day Mark received a letter at the office where he was employed. On the left-hand upper corner was the imprint:

LUTHER ROCKWELL, Broker and Banker.

"He is going to take you into partnership, 79," said A. D. T. 80.

"If he does I'll make you my office-boy," said Mark in a jocular tone. "I hope the old gentleman has quite recovered from his dynamite scare."



CHAPTER XXIII.

MARK'S GOOD LUCK.

Mark presented himself at Mr. Rockwell's office at eleven o'clock.

The letter which he had received was a simple invitation to call, signed by the banker himself.

"Is Mr. Rockwell in?" he asked.

"Yes," said the clerk smiling pleasantly, for Mark was a favorite in the office.

Mark went over to the open door, and stood on the threshold with his hat in his hand.

The banker looked up.

"Oh, it is my young friend the messenger boy!" he said cordially, holding out his hand.

"I hope you are quite recovered, sir," said Mark respectfully.

"Yes, I believe so. The visit of our dynamite friend was quite a shock to me, and at my age it takes longer to recover from the effects of such an incident than at yours. You must not think that I have forgotten what a service you rendered me."

"I am very glad to have done you a service, sir, but I am afraid I must confess that I was thinking partly of myself."

"I don't think any the less of you for your frankness. Still I am sensible that your promptness and presence of mind saved me from a terrible death—I feel that I ought to do something to show my gratitude."

"You have already repaid me, sir, by your kind words."

"Kind words are well enough, but they are not practical. I should like to take you into my employ but I have no vacancy, and I do not like to discharge any of my old and trusted employees."

"I should not be willing to displace any of them, sir."

"But there may be another way. Are your parents living?"

"My mother is living, and I have a little sister."

"And I suppose they are dependent upon you partly for support."

"Yes, sir."

"Probably you are poor?"

"Yes, sir; our means are very limited."

"So I suppose. What is your name?"

"Mark Mason."

Mr. Rockwell turned to his desk, and opening his check book, deliberately filled up a check. He tore it off and handed it to Mark.

Mark read it in amazement. It was a check for one thousand dollars, payable to the order of Mark Mason.

"A thousand dollars!" he ejaculated.

"Yes, does it seem to you a large amount? I assure you that I value my life a great deal higher than this sum, so I shall remain your debtor."

"It seems a fortune to me, Mr. Rockwell. How can I thank you for your generous gift?"

"My boy, generosity is a variable quality—I am blessed by fortune, and for me it is a small sum to bestow in return for the heroic act. Would you like to have Mr. Nichols go with you to identify you at the bank?"

"I don't think I should like to draw it all, sir. I should be afraid to have so much money in my possession."

"Then you can leave it with me as a deposit subject to your call. How much of it would you like to draw now?"

"About fifty dollars, sir. I would like to buy a dress for my mother and sister and a new suit for myself."

"Well thought of. Will you call Mr. Nichols?"

The clerk made his appearance.

"My young friend wishes to make a deposit with our house. Let him indorse the check. Then credit him with the entire amount, and he will draw what sum he wishes."

"You are in luck, Mark," said the clerk when Mark accompanied him into the main office. "You are in luck, and I am heartily glad of it."

"Thank you, Mr. Nichols. I feel rich."

"It is a good beginning at any rate. I am ten years older than you probably, but I haven't as much money as you. But I don't envy you, and I won't even ask for a loan."

When Mark left the office and reappeared on Broadway his face was flushed with pleasure, and he walked with the elastic step of one whose spirits are light.

Just as he stepped into the street, he met his cousin Edgar.

"Hello!" said Edgar in a condescending tone. "So it's you, is it?"

"To the best of my knowledge it is, my good cousin."

"Don't call me cousin," said Edgar, hastily.

"I wont," answered Mark promptly. "I am just as much ashamed of the relationship as you are."

"I suppose that is a joke!" responded Edgar haughtily. "If it is, it is a poor one."

"No joke at all!"

"Where have you been?"

"To the office of Mr. Rockwell, my banker."

"Your banker!" sneered Edgar. "How long has he been your banker, I should like to know."

"Only since this morning. I have just deposited some money with him."

"Indeed! How much?"

"A thousand dollars."

"You are too funny altogether. If you are ever worth a thousand cents you will be lucky."

"Do you think so?" returned Mark, smiling. "I shouldn't be satisfied with so small a fortune as that."

"My father tells me you and your mother have made him a very poor return for a kind offer he made you yesterday."

"That's a matter of business, Edgar. We didn't look upon it in the same way. But I am afraid I must tear myself away from your company. I shall be expected at the office."

"Go by all means. It wouldn't do for you to be bounced. You might starve if you lost your place."

"I am not very much afraid of that."

"At any rate I ought not to be talking with you. Father does not care to have me associate with you."

"I hope he won't disinherit you. That would be serious for you. If he does, come round to our house, and we will take care of you."

"You are too awfully funny. I think it would be better for you if you were not quite so fresh."

Mark laughed and went on his way.

"Wouldn't Edgar be surprised," he thought, "if he knew how large a sum I had on deposit with Mr. Rockwell? He thought I was joking when I was only telling the truth."

When Mark went home to his supper he said: "Mother, I want you to buy a new dress for yourself and one for Edith."

"There are a good many things we would like, Mark, but you must remember that we are not rich."

"Perhaps not, but I think you can afford new dresses. How much would they cost?"

"The material will cost from ten to twenty dollars. I could make them up myself."

"All right, mother. Here are twenty dollars."

"But, Mark, can you spare that amount? Our rent comes due next week."

"It is the last rent we shall pay here. We will move to better quarters."

"Really, Mark, I am afraid you are forgetting your prudence."

"That is because you don't know how rich I am mother. I have a thousand dollars on deposit with my banker, or rather nine hundred and fifty, for I drew fifty dollars this morning."

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