The boys would have applauded again, but Mr. Stone said, waving his hand:
"Once is enough, boys. Time is precious, and we must now go on with our lessons. First class in arithmetic."
Godfrey had been equally surprised and angry at the turn that affairs had taken. He was boiling with indignation, and nervously moved about in his seat. After a slight pause, having apparently taken his determination, he took his cap, and walked toward the door.
Mr. Stone's attention was drawn to him.
"Where are you going, Godfrey?" he demanded, quickly.
"Home," said Godfrey.
"You will wait till the end of school."
"I would rather not, sir."
"It makes no difference what you would rather do, or rather not do. Are you sick?"
"Then you have no good cause for leaving, and I shall not permit you to do so."
"I have been insulted, sir, and I don't wish to stay."
"By whom?" demanded the teacher, sharply.
Godfrey would like to have said, "By you," but he saw the teacher's keen eye fixed upon him, and he didn't dare to do it. He hesitated.
"By whom?" repeated Mr. Stone.
"By Andrew Burke."
"That is no good reason for your leaving school, or would not be, if it were true, but it is not. He has only meted out to you the same punishment you undertook to inflict upon a smaller boy. Take your seat."
"My father will take me away from school," said Godfrey, angrily.
"We shall none of us mourn for your absence. Take your seat."
This last remark of the teacher still further incensed Godfrey, and led him temporarily to forget himself. Though he had been bidden to take his seat, he resolved to leave the schoolroom, and made a rush for the door. But Mr. Stone was there before him. He seized Godfrey by the collar and dragged him, shaking him as he proceeded, to his seat, on which he placed him with some emphasis.
"That is the way I treat rebels," he said. "You forget yourself, Preston. The next time you make up your mind to resist my commands, count in advance on a much severer lesson."
Godfrey was pale with passion, and his hands twitched convulsively. He only wished he had Mr. Stone in his power for five minutes. He would treat him worse than he did Alfred Parker. But a boy in a passion is not a very pleasant spectacle. It is enough to say that Godfrey was compelled to stay in school for the remainder of the forenoon. As soon as he could get away, he ran home, determined to enlist his mother in his cause.
CHAPTER XIV MR. STONE IS CALLED TO ACCOUNT
At home Godfrey gave a highly colored narrative of the outrageous manner in which he had been abused, for so he chose to represent it. He gave this account to his mother, for his father was not at home. Indeed, he was absent for a day or two in a distant city.
Mrs. Preston was indignant.
"It is an outrage, Godfrey," she said, compressing her thin lips. "How did Mr. Stone dare to treat you in this way?"
"I was surprised, myself," said Godfrey.
"Had he no more respect for your father's prominent position?"
"It looks as if he didn't."
"He is evidently unfit to keep the school. I shall try to persuade your father to have him turned away."
"I wish he might be," said Godfrey. "It would teach him to treat me with proper respect. Anybody would think that Irish boy was the son of the most important man in town."
Both Godfrey and his mother appeared to take it for granted that a teacher should treat his pupils according to their social position. This is certainly very far from proper, as all my youthful readers will, I hope, agree.
"I don't want to go back to school this afternoon, mother," said Godfrey.
"I don't wonder," said his mother. "I will tell you what I will do. I will send a letter to Mr. Stone by you, asking him to call here this evening. I will then take occasion to express my opinion of his conduct."
"That's good, mother," said Godfrey, joyfully.
He knew that his mother had a sharp tongue, and he longed to hear his mother "give it" to the teacher whom he hated.
"Then, you think I had better go to school this afternoon?"
"Yes, with the note. If Mr. Stone does not apologize, you need not go to-morrow. I will go upstairs and write it at once."
The note was quickly written, and, putting it carefully in his inside pocket, Godfrey went to school. As he entered the schoolroom he stepped up to the desk and handed the note to Mr. Stone.
"Here is a note from my mother," he said, superciliously.
"Very well," said the teacher, taking it gravely.
As it was not quite time to summon the pupils, he opened it at once.
This was what he read:
"MR. STONE: Sir—My son Godfrey informs me that you have treated him in a very unjust manner, for which I find it impossible to account. I shall be glad if you can find time to call at my house this evening, in order that I may hear from your lips an explanation of the occurrence. Yours, in haste, "Lucinda Preston."
"Preston," said Mr. Stone, after reading this note, "you may say to your mother that I will call this evening."
He did not appear in the least disturbed by the contents of the note he had received from the richest and—in her own eyes—the most important lady in the village. In fact, he had a large share of self-respect and independence, and was not likely to submit to browbeating from anyone. He tried to be just in his treatment of the scholars under his charge, and if he ever failed, it was from misunderstanding or ignorance, not from design. In the present instance he felt that he had done right, and resolved to maintain the justice of his conduct.
Nothing of importance occurred in the afternoon. Godfrey was very quiet and orderly. He felt that he could afford to wait. With malicious joy, he looked forward to the scolding Mr. Stone was to get from his mother.
"He won't dare to talk to her," he said to himself. "I hope she'll make him apologize to me. He ought to do it before the school."
Evidently Godfrey had a very inadequate idea of the teacher's pluck, if he thought such a thing possible.
School was dismissed, and Godfrey went home. He dropped a hint to Ben Travers, that his mother was going "to haul Mr. Stone over the coals," as he expressed it.
"Are you going to be there?" asked Ben, when Godfrey had finished.
"Yes," said Godfrey. "It'll be my turn then."
"Perhaps Mr. Stone will have something to say," said Ben, doubtfully.
"He won't dare to," said Godfrey, confidently. "He knows my father could get him kicked out of school."
"He's rather spunky, the master is," said Ben, who, toady as he was, understood the character of Mr. Stone considerably better than Godfrey did.
"I'll tell you all about it to-morrow morning," said Godfrey.
"I expect he'll apologize to me for what he did."
"Maybe he will," answered Ben, but he thought it highly improbable.
"Did you give my note to Mr. Stone?" asked his mother.
"What did he say?"
"He said he'd come around."
"How did he appear?"
"He looked a little nervous," said Godfrey, speaking not according to facts, but according to his wishes.
"I thought so," said Mrs. Preston, with a look of satisfaction. "He will find that he has made a mistake in treating you so outrageously."
"Give it to him right and left, mother," said Godfrey, with more force than elegance.
"You might express yourself more properly, my son," said Mrs. Preston. "I shall endeavor to impress upon his mind the impropriety of his conduct."
At half-past seven, Mr. Stone rang the bell at Mrs. Preston's door, and was ushered in without delay.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Preston," he said, bowing. "Your son brought me a note this afternoon, requesting me to call. I have complied with your request."
"Be seated, Mr. Stone," said the lady frigidly, not offering her hand.
"Thank you," said the teacher, with equal ceremony, and did as invited.
"I suppose you can guess the object of my request," said Mrs. Preston.
"I think you stated it in your note."
"I desire an explanation of the manner in which you treated my son this forenoon, Mr. Stone."
"Pardon me, madam; your son is in the room."
"I decline discussing the matter before him."
"I cannot understand why you should object to his presence."
"I am his teacher, and he is subject to my authority. You apparently desire to find fault with the manner in which I have exercised that authority. It is improper that the discussion upon this point should take place before him."
"May I stay in the room, mother?" asked Godfrey, who was alarmed lest he should miss the spectacle of Mr. Stone's humiliation.
"I really don't see why not," returned his mother.
"Madam," said Mr. Stone, rising, "I will bid you good-evening."
"What, sir; before we have spoken on the subject?"
"I distinctly decline to speak before your son, for the reasons already given."
"This is very singular, sir. However, I will humor your whims. Godfrey, you may leave the room."
"Can't I stay?"
"I am compelled to send you out."
Godfrey went out, though with a very ill grace.
"Now, madam," said the teacher, "I have no objection to telling you that I first reprimanded your son for brutal treatment of a younger schoolmate, and then forcibly carried him back to his seat, when he endeavored to leave the schoolroom without my permission."
It was Mrs. Preston's turn to be surprised. She had expected to overawe the teacher, and instead of that found him firmly and independently defending his course.
"Mr. Stone," she said, "my son tells me that you praised an Irish boy in your school for a violent and brutal assault which he made upon him."
"I did not praise him for that. I praised him for promptly interfering to prevent Godfrey from abusing a boy smaller and younger than himself."
"Godfrey had good cause for punishing the boy you refer to. He acted in self-defense."
"He has doubtless misrepresented the affair to you, madam, as he did to me."
"You take this Andrew Burke's word against his?"
"I form my judgment upon the testimony of an eyewitness, and from what I know of your son's character."
"From your own statement, this low Irish boy——"
"To whom do you refer, madam?"
"To the Irish boy."
"I have yet to learn that he is low."
"Do you mean to compare him with my son?"
"In wealth, no. Otherwise, you mustn't blame me for saying that I hold him entirely equal in respectability, and in some important points his superior."
"Really, sir, your language is most extraordinary."
At this moment there was an interruption. Godfrey had been listening at the keyhole, but finding that difficult, had opened the door slightly, but in his interest managed to stumble against it. The door flew open, and he fell forward upon his knees on the carpet of the sitting-room.
CHAPTER XV MRS. PRESTON'S DISCOMFITURE
Godfrey rose to his feet, red with mortification. His mother looked disconcerted. Mr. Stone said nothing, but glanced significantly from Godfrey to Mrs. Preston.
"What is the matter, Godfrey?" she asked, rather sharply.
"It was an accident," said Godfrey, rather sheepishly.
"You can go out and shut the door, and take care not to let such an accident happen again. For some unknown reason, Mr. Stone prefers that you should not be present, and, therefore, you must go."
For once, Godfrey found nothing to say, but withdrew in silence.
"You appear to have formed a prejudice against Godfrey, Mr. Stone," said Mrs. Preston.
"I may have formed an unfavorable judgment of him on some points," said the teacher. "I judge of him by his conduct."
"To say that Andrew Burke is his superior is insulting to him and his family, as well as ludicrous."
"I beg pardon, Mrs. Preston, but I must dissent from both your statements. Andrew Burke possesses some excellent qualities in which Godfrey is deficient."
"He is a poor working boy."
"He is none the worse for that."
"He should remember his position, and treat my son with proper respect."
"I venture to say that Godfrey will receive all the respect to which he is entitled. May I ask if you expect him to be treated with deference, because his father is richer than those of the other boys?"
"It seems to me only proper."
"Do you expect me to treat him any better on that account?"
"I think my son's social position should command respect."
"Then, Mrs. Preston, I entirely disagree with you," said Mr. Stone, firmly. "As a teacher, I have nothing whatever to do with the social position of the children who come to me as pupils. From me a poor boy will receive the same instruction, and the same treatment precisely as the son of rich parents. If he behaves as he should, he will always find in me a friend, as well as a teacher. Your son Godfrey shall have no just complaint to make of my treatment. I will give him credit for good conduct and faithful study, but no more than to Andrew Burke, or to any other pupil under the same circumstances."
"Mr. Stone, I am surprised at your singular style of talking. You wish to do away with all social distinctions."
"I certainly do, madam, in my schoolroom, at least. There must be social differences, I am aware. We cannot all be equally rich or honored, but whatever may be the world's rule, I mean to maintain strict impartiality in my schoolroom."
"Will you require Andy Burke to apologize to Godfrey?"
"Why should I?"
"For his violent assault upon him."
"Certainly not. He was justified in his conduct."
"If my son was doing wrong, the Irish boy, instead of interfering, should have waited till you came, and then reported the matter to you."
"And, meanwhile, stood by and seen Alfred Parker inhumanly treated?"
"I presume the matter has been greatly exaggerated."
"I do not, madam."
"Do I understand that you decline to make reparation to my son?"
"Reparation for what?"
"For the manner in which he has been treated."
"I must have talked to little purpose, if I have not made it clear that your son has only received his deserts. Of course, he is entitled to no reparation, as you term it."
"Then, Mr. Stone," said Mrs. Preston, her thin lips compressed with indignation, "since Godfrey cannot meet with fair treatment, I shall be compelled to withdraw him from your school."
"That must be as you please, madam," said the teacher, quite unmoved by the threatened withdrawal of his richest pupil.
"I shall report to Colonel Preston your treatment of his son."
"I have no objection, madam."
"You are pursuing a very unwise course in alienating your wealthiest patrons."
"I have no patrons, madam," said Mr. Stone, proudly. "I return faithful service for the moderate wages I receive, and the obligation, if there is any, is on the part of those whose children I instruct."
"Really," thought Mrs. Preston, "this man is very independent for a poor teacher."
She resolved upon another shot, not in the best of taste.
"You must not be surprised, Mr. Stone," she said, "if the school trustees refuse to employ you again."
"You mistake me utterly," said the teacher, with dignity, "if you suppose that any such threat or consideration will make me swerve from my duty. However, though I did not propose to mention it, I will state that this is the last term I shall teach in this village. I have been engaged at double the salary in a neighboring city."
Mrs. Preston was disappointed to hear this. It was certainly vexatious that the man who had treated her son with so little consideration, who had actually taken the part of a working boy against him, should be promoted to a better situation. She had thought to make him feel that he was in her power, but she now saw that her anticipations were not to be realized.
As she did not speak, Mr. Stone considered the interview closed, and rose.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Preston," he said.
"Good-evening, sir," she responded, coldly.
He bowed and withdrew.
When Godfrey, who was not far off, though he had not thought it best to play the part of eavesdropper again, heard the door close, he hurried into the room.
"Well, mother, what did he say?" he inquired, eagerly.
"He obstinately refused to make any reparation to you."
"Did you tell him what you thought of his treatment of me?" said Godfrey, rather surprised that his mother's remonstrance had produced no greater effect.
"Yes, I expressed my opinion very plainly. I must say that he's a very impudent man. The idea of a poor teacher putting on such airs!" continued Mrs. Preston, tossing her head.
"What did he say?"
"That that Irish boy was superior to you."
"I'd like to knock him over," said Godfrey, wrathfully.
Mrs. Preston was a lady, and it is not to be supposed that she should join in her son's wish. Still, it did not occur to her that she should mourn very much if Mr. Stone met with a reverse. She would like to see his pride humbled, not reflecting that her own was greater and less justifiable.
"You ought to have told him that he would lose his school," said Godfrey. "That would have frightened him, for he is a poor man, and depends on the money he gets for teaching."
"He is not going to teach here after this term."
"Good! Did he tell you that?"
"He is afraid of me, after all."
"You are mistaken, Godfrey. He is offered considerably higher pay in another place."
Godfrey's countenance fell. It was as disagreeable to him as to his mother to learn that Mr. Stone was to be promoted in his profession.
"Shall I have to go to school again, mother?" he asked, after a pause.
"No," said Mrs. Preston, with energy. "Upon that I have determined. While Mr. Stone is teacher, you shall not go back. I will take care to let it be known in the neighborhood why I keep you at home. I hope the next teacher will be a man who understands the respect due to social position. I don't care to have you put on an equality with such boys as Andrew Burke. He is no fit associate for you."
"That is what I think, mother," said Godfrey. "The low beggar! I'd like to come up with him. Perhaps, I shall have a chance some day."
When Colonel Preston returned home, the whole story was told to him; but, colored though it was, he guessed how matters actually stood, and was far from becoming his son's partisan. He privately went to Mr. Stone and obtained his version of the affair.
"You did right, Mr. Stone," he said, at the end. "If my son chooses to act the bully, he must take the consequences. Mrs. Preston does not look upon it in the same light, and insists upon my taking Godfrey from school. For the sake of peace, I must do so, but you must not construe it as showing any disapproval on my part of your course in the matter."
"Thank you, Colonel Preston," said the teacher, warmly. "I can only regret Mrs. Preston's displeasure. Your approval I highly value, and it will encourage me in the path of duty."
CHAPTER XVI THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Godfrey didn't return to school at all. He fancied that it would be more aristocratic to go to a boarding school, and, his mother concurring in this view, he was entered as a scholar at the Melville Academy, situated in Melville, twelve miles distant. Once a fortnight he came home to spend the Sunday. On these occasions he flourished about with a tiny cane, and put on more airs than ever. No one missed him much, outside of his own family. Andy found the school considerably more agreeable after his departure.
We will now suppose twelve months to have passed. During this time Andy has grown considerably, and is now quite a stout boy. He has improved also in education. The Misses Grant, taking a kind interest in his progress, managed to spare him half the day in succeeding terms, so that he continued to attend school. Knowing that he had but three hours to learn, when the others had six, he was all the more diligent, and was quite up to the average standard for boys of his age. The fact is, Andy was an observing boy, and he realized that education was essential to success in life. Mr. Stone, before going away, talked with him on this subject and gave him some advice, which Andy determined to follow.
As may be inferred from what I have said, Andy was still working for the Misses Grant. He had grown accustomed to their ways, and succeeded in giving them perfect satisfaction, and accomplished quite as much work as John, his predecessor, though the latter was a man.
As Christmas approached, Miss Priscilla said one day to her sister:
"Don't you think, Sophia, it would be well to give Andrew a Christmas present?"
"Just so," returned Sophia, approvingly.
"He has been very faithful and obliging all the time he has been with us."
"I have been thinking what would be a good thing to give him."
"A pair of spectacles," suggested Sophia, rather absent-mindedly.
"Sophia, you are a goose."
"Just so," acquiesced her sister, meekly.
"Such a gift would be very inappropriate."
"A pair of boots," was the next suggestion.
"That would be better. Boots would be very useful, but I think it would be well to give him something that would contribute to his amusement. Of course, we must consult his taste, and not out own. We are not boys."
"Just so," said Sophia, promptly. "And he is not a lady," she added, enlarging upon the idea.
"Of course not. Now, the question is, what do boys like?"
"Just so," said Sophia, but this admission did not throw much light upon the character of the present to be bought.
Just then Andy himself helped them to a decision. He entered, cap in hand, and said:
"If you can spare me, Miss Grant, I would like to go skating on the pond."
"Have you a pair of skates, Andrew?"
"No, ma'am," said Andy; "but one of the boys will lend me a pair."
"Yes, Andrew; you can go, if you will be home early."
"Yes, ma'am—thank you."
As he went out, Miss Priscilla said:
"I have it."
"What?" asked Sophia, alarmed.
"I mean that I have found out what to give to Andrew."
"What is it?"
"A pair of skates."
"Just so," said Sophia. "He will like them."
"So I think. Suppose we go to the store while he is away, and buy him a pair."
"Won't he need to try them on?" asked her sister.
"No," said Priscilla. "They don't need to fit as exactly as boots."
So the two sisters made their way to the village store, and asked to look at their stock of skates.
"Are you going to skate, Miss Priscilla?" asked the shopkeeper, jocosely.
"No; they are for Sophia," answered Priscilla, who could joke occasionally.
"Oh, Priscilla," answered the matter-of-fact Sophia, "you didn't tell me about that. I am sure I could not skate. You said they were for Andrew."
"Sophia, you are a goose."
"It was only a joke."
The ladies, who never did things by halves, selected the best pair in the store, and paid for them. When Andy had returned from skating, Priscilla said: "How did you like the skating, Andrew?"
"It was bully," said Andrew, enthusiastically.
"Whose skates did you borrow?"
"Alfred Parker's. They were too small for me, but I made them do."
"I should suppose you would like to have a pair of your own."
"So I should, but I can't afford to buy a pair, just yet.
"I'll tell you what I want to do, and maybe you'll help me about buyin' it."
"What is it, Andrew?"
"You know Christmas is comin', ma'am, and I want to buy my mother a nice dress for a Christmas present—not a calico one, but a thick one for winter."
"Alpaca or de laine?"
"I expect so; I don't know the name of what I want, but you do. How much would it cost?"
"I think you could get a good de laine for fifty cents a yard. I saw some at the store this afternoon."
"And about how many yards would be wanted, ma'am?"
"About twelve, I should think."
"Then it would be six dollars."
"Just so," said Sophia, who thought it about time she took part in the conversation.
"I've got the money, ma'am, and I'll give it to you, if you and Miss Sophia will be kind enough to buy it for me."
"To be sure we will, Andrew," said Priscilla, kindly. "I am glad you are such a good son."
"Just so, Andrew."
"You see," said Andy, "mother won't buy anything for herself. She always wants to buy things for Mary and me. She wants us to be well-dressed, but she goes with the same old clothes. So I want her to have a new dress."
"You want her to have it at Christmas, then?"
"Yes, ma'am, if it won't be too much trouble."
"That is in two days. To-morrow, Sophia and I will buy the dress."
"Thank you. Here's the money," and Andy counted out six dollars in bills, of which Miss Priscilla took charge.
The next day they fulfilled their commission, and purchased a fine dress pattern at the village store. It cost rather more than six dollars, but this they paid out of their own pockets, and did not report to Andy. Just after supper, as he was about to go home to spend Christmas Eve, they placed the bundle in his hands.
"Isn't it beautiful!" he exclaimed, with delight. "Won't mother be glad to get it?"
"She'll think she has a good son, Andrew."
"Shure, I ought to be good to her, for she's a jewel of a mother."
"That is right, Andrew. I always like to hear a boy speak well of his mother. It is a great pleasure to a mother to have a good son."
"Shure, ma'am," said Andy, with more kindness of heart than discretion, "I hope you'll have one yourself."
"Just so," said Sophia, with the forced habit upon her.
"Sophia, you are a goose!" said Priscilla, blushing a little.
"Just so, Priscilla."
"We are too old to marry, Andrew," said Priscilla; "but we thank you for your wish."
"Shure, ma'am, you are only in the prime of life."
"Just so," said Sophia, brightening up.
"I shall be sixty next spring. That can hardly be in the prime of life."
"I was readin' of a lady that got married at seventy-nine, ma'am."
"Just so," said Sophia, eagerly.
Miss Priscilla did not care to pursue the subject.
"We have thought of you," she continued, "and, as you have been very obliging, we have bought you a Christmas present. Here it is."
Andy no sooner saw the skates than his face brightened up with the most evident satisfaction.
"It's just what I wanted," he said, joyfully. "They're regular beauties! I'm ever so much obliged to you."
"Sophia wanted to get you a pair of spectacles, but I thought these would suit you better."
Andy went off into a fit of laughter at the idea, in which both the ladies joined him. Then, after thanking them again, he hurried home, hardly knowing which gave him greater pleasure, his own present, or his mother's.
I will not stop to describe Andy's Christmas, for this is only a retrospect, but carry my reader forward to the next September, when Andy met with an adventure, which eventually had a considerable effect upon his fortunes.
CHAPTER XVII INTRODUCES AN ADVENTURER
Colonel Preston, as I have already said, was a rich man. He owned no real estate in the town of Crampton, except the house in which he lived. His property was chiefly in stocks of different kinds. Included in these was a considerable amount of stock in a woolen manufacturing establishment, situated in Melville, some twelve miles distant. Dividends upon these were paid semi-annually, on the first of April and October. It was the custom of Colonel Preston at these dates to drive over to Melville, receive his dividends, and then drive back again.
Now, unfortunately for the welfare of the community, there are some persons who, unwilling to make a living by honest industry, prefer to possess themselves unlawfully of means to maintain their unprofitable lives. Among them was a certain black-whiskered individual, who, finding himself too well known in New York, had sought the country, ready for any stroke of business which might offer in his particular line. Chance led his steps to Melville, where he put up at the village inn. He began at once to institute inquiries, the answers to which might serve his purpose, and to avert suspicion, casually mentioned that he was a capitalist, and thought of settling down in the town. As he was well dressed, and had a plausible manner, this statement was not doubted.
Among other things, he made inquiries in regard to the manufactory, what dividends it paid, and when. Expressing himself desirous of purchasing some stock, he inquired the names of the principal owners of the stock. First among them was mentioned Colonel Preston.
"Perhaps he might sell some stocks," suggested the landlord.
"Where can I see him?" asked James Fairfax, for this was the name assumed by the adventurer.
"You can see him here," answered the landlord, "in a day or two. He will be here the first of the month to receive his dividends."
"Will he stop with you?"
"Probably. He generally dines with me when he comes over."
"Will you introduce me?"
Mr. Fairfax appeared to hear this with satisfaction, and said that he would make Colonel Preston an offer for a part of his stock.
"Most of my property is invested in real estate in New York," he said; "but I should like to have some manufacturing stock; and, from what you tell me, I think favorably of the Melville Mills."
"We should be glad to have you settle down among us," said the landlord.
"I shall probably do so," said Fairfax. "I am very much pleased with your town and people."
In due time Colonel Preston drove over. As usual, he put up at the hotel.
"Colonel," said the landlord, "there's a gentleman stopping with me who desires an introduction to you."
"Indeed! What is his name?"
"Is he from this neighborhood?"
"No; from the city of New York."
"I shall be happy to make his acquaintance," said the colonel, courteously; "but it must be after I return from the mills. I shall be there a couple of hours, probably. We are to have a directorial meeting."
"I will tell him."
Colonel Preston attended the directors' meeting, and also collected his dividend, amounting to eight hundred dollars. These, in eight one-hundred-dollar bills, he put in his pocketbook, and returned to the hotel for dinner.
"Dinner is not quite ready, colonel," said the landlord. "It will be ready in fifteen minutes."
"Where is the gentleman who wished to be introduced to me?" asked Colonel Preston, who thought it would save time to be introduced now.
"I will speak to him."
He went directly to a dark-complexioned man with black whiskers, and eyes that were rather sinister in appearance. The eyes oftenest betray the real character of a man, where all other signs fail. But Colonel Preston was not a keen observer, nor was he skilled in physiognomy, and, judging of Mr. Fairfax by his manner merely, was rather pleased with him.
"You will pardon my obtruding myself upon you, Colonel Preston," said the stranger, with great ease of manner.
"I am happy to make your acquaintance, sir."
"I am a stranger in this neighborhood. The city of New York is my home. I have been led here by the recommendations of friends who knew that I desired to locate myself in the country."
"How do you like Melville?"
"Very much—so much, that I may settle down here. But, Colonel Preston, I am a man of business, and if I am to be here, I want some local interest—some stake in the town itself."
"Quite natural, sir."
"You are a business man yourself, and will understand me. Now, to come to the point, I find you have a manufactory here—a woolen manufactory, which I am given to understand is prosperous and profitable."
"You are correctly informed, Mr. Fairfax. It is paying twelve per cent. dividends, and has done so for several years."
"That is excellent. It is a better rate than I get for most of my city investments."
"I also have city investments—bank stocks, and horse-railroad stocks, but, as you say, my mill stock pays me better than the majority of these."
"You are a large owner of the mill stock; are you not, Colonel Preston?"
"Yes, sir; the largest, I believe."
"So I am informed. Would you be willing to part with any of it?"
"I have never thought of doing so. I am afraid I could not replace it with any other that would be satisfactory."
"I don't blame you, of course, but it occurred to me that, having a considerable amount, you might be willing to sell."
"I generally hold on to good stock when I get possession of it. Indeed, I would buy more, if there were any in the market."
"He must have surplus funds," thought the adventurer. "I must see if I can't manage to get some into my possession."
Here the landlord appeared, and announced that dinner was ready.
"You dine here, then?" said Fairfax.
"Yes; it will take me two hours to reach home, so I am obliged to dine here."
"We shall dine together, it seems. I am glad of it, as at present I happen to be the only permanent guest at the hotel. May I ask where you live?"
"I have heard favorably of it, and have been intending to come over and see the place, but the fact is, I am used only to the city, and your country roads are so blind, that I have been afraid of losing my way."
"Won't you ride over with me this afternoon, Mr. Fairfax? I can't bring you back, but you are quite welcome to a seat in my chaise one way."
The eyes of the adventurer sparkled at the invitation. Colonel Preston had fallen into the trap he had laid for him, but he thought it best not to accept too eagerly.
"You are certainly very kind, Colonel Preston," he answered, with affected hesitation, "but I am afraid I shall be troubling you too much."
"No trouble whatever," said Colonel Preston, heartily. "It is a lonely ride, and I shall be glad of a companion."
"A lonely ride, is it?" thought Fairfax. "All the better for my purpose. It shall not be my fault if I do not come back with my pockets well lined. The dividends you have just collected will be better in my pockets than in yours."
This was what he thought, but he said:
"Then I will accept with pleasure. I suppose I can easily engage someone to bring me back to Melville?"
"Oh, yes; we have a livery stable, where you can easily obtain a horse and driver."
The dinner proceeded, and Fairfax made himself unusually social and agreeable, so that Colonel Preston congratulated himself on the prospect of beguiling the loneliness of the way in such pleasant company. Fairfax spoke of stocks with such apparent knowledge that the colonel imagined him to be a gentleman of large property. It is not surprising that he was deceived, for the adventurer really understood the subject of which he spoke, having been for several years a clerk in a broker's counting-room in Wall Street. The loss of his situation was occasioned by his abstraction of some securities, part of which he had disposed of before he was detected. He was, in consequence, tried and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. At the end of this period he was released, with no further taste for an honest life, and had since allied himself to the class who thrive by preying upon the community.
This was the man whom Colonel Preston proposed to take as his companion on his otherwise lonely ride home.
CHAPTER XVIII RIDING WITH A HIGHWAYMAN
"Get into the chaise, Mr. Fairfax," said Colonel Preston.
"Thank you," said the adventurer, and accepted the invitation.
"Now we are off," said the colonel, as he took the reins, and touched the horse lightly with the whip.
"Is the road a pleasant one?" inquired Fairfax.
"The latter part is rather lonely. For a mile it runs through the woods—still, on a summer day, that is rather pleasant than otherwise. In the evening, it is not so agreeable."
"No, I suppose not," said Fairfax, rather absently.
Colonel Preston would have been startled could he have read the thoughts that were passing through the mind of his companion. Could he have known his sinister designs, he would scarcely have sat at his side, chatting so easily and indifferently.
"I will postpone my plan till we get to that part of the road he speaks of," thought Fairfax. "It would not do for me to be interrupted."
"I suppose it is quite safe traveling anywhere on the road," remarked the adventurer.
"Oh, yes," said Colonel Preston, with a laugh. "Thieves and highway robbers do not pay us the compliment of visiting our neighborhood. They keep in the large cities, or in places that will better reward their efforts."
"Precisely," said Fairfax; "I am glad to hear it, for I carry a considerable amount of money about me."
"So do I, to-day. This is the day for payment of mill dividends, and as I have occasion to use the money, I did not deposit it."
"Good," said Fairfax, to himself. "That is what I wanted to find out."
Aloud he said:
"Oh, well, there are two of us, so it would be a bold highwayman that would venture to attack us. Do you carry a pistol?"
"Not I," said Colonel Preston. "I don't like the idea of carrying firearms about with me. They might go off by mistake. I was reading in a daily paper, recently, of a case where a man accidentally shot his son with the pistol he was in the habit of carrying about with him."
"There is that disadvantage, to be sure," said Fairfax. "So, he has no pistol. He is quite in my power," he said to himself. "It's a good thing to know."
"By the way," he asked, merely to keep up the conversation, "are you a family man, Colonel Preston?"
"Yes, sir; I have a wife, and a son of fifteen."
"You have the advantage of me in that respect. I have always been devoted to business, and have had no time for matrimony."
"Time enough yet, Mr. Fairfax."
"Oh, yes, I suppose so."
"If you are going to settle down in our neighborhood, I can introduce you to some of our marriageable young ladies," said Colonel Preston, pleasantly.
"Thank you," said Fairfax; in the same tone. "I may avail myself of your offer."
"Won't you take supper at my home this evening?" said the colonel, hospitably. "I shall be glad to introduce Mrs. Preston. My son is at boarding school, so I shall not be able to let you see him."
"Have you but one child, then?"
"But one. His absence leaves us alone."
Godfrey's absence would have been lamented more by his father, had his character and disposition been different. But he was so arrogant and overbearing in his manners, and so selfish, that his father hoped that association with other boys would cure him in part of these objectionable traits. At home, he was so much indulged by his mother, who could see no fault in him, as long as he did not oppose her, that there was little chance of amendment.
So they rode on, conversing on various topics, but their conversation was not of sufficient importance for me to report. At length they entered on a portion of the road lined on either side by a natural forest. Fairfax looked about him.
"I suppose, Colonel Preston, these are the woods you referred to?"
"How far do they extend?"
"About a mile."
They had traversed about half a mile, when Fairfax said:
"If you don't object, Colonel Preston, I will step out a moment. There's a tree with a peculiar leaf. I would like to examine it nearer to."
"Certainly, Mr. Fairfax," said the colonel, though he wondered what tree it could be, for he saw no tree of an unusual character.
The chaise stopped and Fairfax jumped off. But he seemed to have forgotten the object of dismounting. Instead of examining the foliage of a tree, he stepped to the horse's head, and seized him by the bridle.
"What are you going to do, Mr. Fairfax?" asked Colonel Preston, in surprise.
By this time Fairfax had withdrawn a pistol from his inside pocket, and deliberately pointed it at his companion.
"Good heavens! Mr. Fairfax, what do you mean?"
"Colonel Preston," said the adventurer, "I want all the money you have about you. I know you have a considerable sum, for you have yourself acknowledged it."
"Why," exclaimed Colonel Preston, startled, "this is highway robbery."
"Precisely!" said Fairfax, bowing mockingly. "You have had the honor of riding with a highwayman. Will you be good enough to give me the money at once? I am in haste."
"Surely, this is a joke, Mr. Fairfax. I have heard of such practical jokes before. You are testing my courage. I am not in the least frightened. Jump in the chaise again, and we will proceed."
"That's a very kind way of putting it," said Fairfax, coolly; "but not correct. I am no counterfeit, but the genuine article. Fairfax is not my name. I won't tell you what it is, for it might be inconvenient."
No man can look with equanimity upon the prospect of losing money, and Colonel Preston may be excused for not wishing to part with his eight hundred dollars. But how could he escape? He had no pistol, and Fairfax held the horse's bridle in a strong grasp. If he could only parley with him till some carriage should come up, he might save his money. It seemed the only way, and he resolved to try it.
"Mr. Fairfax," he said, "if you are really what you represent, I hope you will consider the natural end of such a career. Turn, I entreat you, to a more honest course of life."
"That may come some time," said Fairfax; "but at present my necessities are too great. Oblige me by producing your pocketbook."
"I will give you one hundred dollars, and keep the matter a secret from all. That will be better than to expose yourself to the penalty of the law."
"Colonel Preston, a hundred dollars will not satisfy me. You have eight hundred dollars with you, and I shall not leave this spot till it is transferred to my possession."
"If I refuse?"
"You will subject me to the unpleasant alternative of blowing your brains out," said the other, coolly.
"You surely would not be guilty of such a crime, Mr. Fairfax?" said Colonel Preston, with a shudder.
"I would rather not. I have no desire to take your life, but I must have that money. If you prefer to keep your money, you will compel me to the act. You'll gain nothing, for in that case I shall take both—your life first, and your money afterward."
"And this is the man with whom I dined, and with whom, a few moments since, I was conversing freely!" thought Colonel Preston.
The adventurer became impatient.
"Colonel Preston," he said, abruptly, "produce that money instantly, or I will fire."
There was no alternative. With reluctant hand the colonel drew out his pocketbook, and was about to hand it with its contents to the highwayman, when there was a sudden crash in the bushes behind Fairfax, his pistol was dashed from his hand, and our young hero, Andy Burke, with resolute face, stood with his gun leveled at him. All happened so quickly that both Colonel Preston and Fairfax were taken by surprise, and the latter, still retaining his hold upon the bridle, stared at the young hero, who had so intrepidly come between him and his intended victim.
With an oath he stopped, and was about to pick up the pistol which had fallen from his hands, but was arrested by the quick, decisive tones of Andy:
"Let that pistol alone! If you pick it up, I will shoot you on the spot."
CHAPTER XIX BAFFLED A ROBBER
Fairfax paused at Andy's threat. He was only a boy, it is true, but he looked cool and resolute, and the gun, which was pointed at him, looked positively dangerous. But was he to be thwarted in the very moment of his triumph, by a boy? He could not endure it.
"Young man," he said, "this is dangerous business for you. If you don't make yourself scarce, you won't be likely to return at all."
"I'll take the risk," said Andy, coolly.
"Confound him! I thought he'd be frightened," said Fairfax to himself.
"I don't want to kill you," he said, with a further attempt to intimidate Andy.
"I don't mean to let you," said our hero, quietly.
"You are no match for me."
"With a gun I am."
"I don't believe it is loaded."
"If you try to pick up that pistol, I'll convince you; by the powers, I will," said Andy, energetically.
"What is to prevent my taking away the gun from you?"
"Faith," returned Andy, quaintly, "you'll take the powder and ball first, I'm thinkin'."
Fairfax thought so, too, and that was one reason why he concluded not to try it.
It was certainly a provoking position for him.
There lay the pistol on the ground, just at his feet; yet, if he tried to pick it up, the boy would put a bullet through him. It was furthermore provoking to reflect that, had he not stopped to parley with Colonel Preston, he might have secured the money, which he so much desired, before Andy had come up. There was one other resource. He had tried bullying, and without success. He would try cajoling and temptation.
"Look here, boy," he said, "I am a desperate man. I would as leave murder you as not."
"Thank you," said Andy. "But I'd rather not have it done."
"I don't want to hurt you, as I said before, but you mustn't interfere with me."
"Then you mustn't interfere with the colonel."
"I must have the money in his pocketbook."
"Must you? Maybe, I'll have something to say, to that."
"He has eight hundred dollars with him."
"Did he tell you?"
"No matter; I know. If you won't interfere with me, I'll give you two hundred of it."
"Thank you for nothing, then," said Andy, independently. "I'm only a poor Irish boy, but I ain't a thafe, and never mane to be."
"Bravo, Andy!" said Colonel Preston, who had awaited with a little anxiety the result of the offer.
Fairfax stooped suddenly, but before he could get hold of the pistol, Andy struck him on the head with the gun-barrel, causing him to roll over, while, in a quick and adroit movement, he himself got hold of the pistol before Fairfax had recovered from the crack on his head.
"Now," said Andy, triumphantly, with the gun over his shoulder, and presenting the pistol, "lave here mighty quick, or I'll shoot ye."
"Give me back the pistol, then," said the discomfited ruffian.
"I guess not," said Andy.
"It's my property."
"I don't know that. Maybe you took it from some thraveler."
"Give it to me, and I'll go off peaceably."
"I won't take no robber's word," said Andy. "Are you goin'?"
"Give me the pistol. Fire it off, if you like."
"That you may load it again. You don't catch a weasel asleep," answered Andy, shrewdly. "I've a great mind to make you march into the village, and give you up to the perlice."
This suggestion was by no means pleasant for the highwayman, particularly as he reflected that Andy had shown himself a resolute boy, and doubly armed as he now was, it was quite within his power to carry out his threat.
"Don't fire after me," he said.
"I never attack an inimy in the rare," said Andy, who always indulged in the brogue more than usual under exciting circumstances.
I make this explanation, as the reader may have noticed a difference in his dialect at different times.
"We shall meet again, boy!" said Fairfax, menacingly, turning at the distance of a few feet.
"Thank you, sir. You needn't thrubble yourself," said Andy, "I ain't anxious to mate you."
"When we do meet, you'll know it," said the other.
"Maybe I will. Go along wid ye!" said Andy, pointing the pistol at him.
"Don't shoot," said Fairfax, hastily, and he quickened his pace to get out of the way of a dangerous companion.
Andy laughed as the highwayman disappeared in the distance.
"I thought he wouldn't wait long," he said.
"Andy," said Colonel Preston, warmly, "you have behaved like a hero."
"I'm only an Irish boy," said Andy, laughing. "Shure, they don't make heroes of such as I."
"I don't care whether you are Irish or Dutch. You are a hero for all that."
"Shure, sir, it's lucky I was round whin that spalpeen wanted to rob you."
"How did you happen to be out with a gun this afternoon?"
"I got my work all done, and Miss Grant said I might go out shootin' if I wanted. Shure, I didn't expect it 'ud been robbers I would be afther shootin'."
"You came up just in the nick of time. Weren't you afraid?"
"I didn't stop to think of that when I saw that big blackguard p'intin' his pistol at you. I thought I'd have a hand in it myself."
"Jump into the chaise, Andy, and ride home with me."
"What, wid the gun?"
"To be sure. We won't leave the gun. That has done us too good service already to-day."
"I've made something out of it, anyway," said Andy, displaying the pistol, which was silver-mounted, and altogether a very pretty weapon. "It's a regular beauty," he said, with admiration.
"It will be better in your hands than in the real owner's," said Colonel Preston.
By this time Andy was in the chaise, rapidly nearing the village.
"If you hadn't come up just as you did, Andy, I should have been poorer by eight hundred dollars."
"That's a big pile of money," said Andy, who, as we know, was not in the habit of having large sums of money in his own possession.
"It is considerably more than I would like to lose," said Colonel Preston, to whom it was of less importance than to Andy.
"I wonder will I ever have so much money?" thought Andy.
"Now, I'll tell you what I think it only right to do, Andy," pursued the colonel.
Andy listened attentively.
"I am going to make you a present of some money, as an acknowledgment of the service you have done me."
"I don't want anything, Colonel Preston," said Andy. "I didn't help you for the money."
"I know you didn't, my lad," said the colonel, "but I mean to give it to you all the same."
He took out his pocketbook, but Andy made one more remonstrance.
"I don't think I ought to take it, sir, thankin' you all the same."
"Then I will give you one hundred dollars for your mother. You can't refuse it for her."
Andy's eyes danced with delight. He knew how much good this money would do his mother, and relieve her from the necessity of working so hard as she was now compelled to do.
"Thank you, sir," he said. "It'll make my mother's heart glad, and save her from the hard work."
"Here is the money, Andy," said the colonel, handing his young companion a roll of bills.
Again Andy poured out warm protestations of gratitude for the munificent gift, with which Colonel Preston was well pleased.
"I believe you are a good boy, Andy," he said. "It is a good sign when a boy thinks so much of his mother."
"I'd be ashamed not to, sir," said Andy.
They soon reached the village. Andy got down at the Misses Grant's gate, and was soon astonishing the simple ladies by a narrative of his encounter with the highwayman.
"Do you think he'll come here?" asked Sophia, in alarm. "If he should come when Andy was away——"
"You could fire the gun yourself, Sophia."
"I should be frightened to death."
"Then he couldn't kill you afterward."
"Just so," answered Sophia, a little bewildered.
"Were you shot, Andrew?" she asked, a minute afterward.
"If I was, I didn't feel it," said Andy, jocosely.
Andy's heroic achievement made him still more valued by the Misses Grant, and they rejoiced in the handsome gift he had received from the colonel, and readily gave him permission to carry it to his mother after supper.
CHAPTER XX HOW THE NEWS WAS RECEIVED
It is always pleasant to carry good news, and Andy hastened with joyful feet to his mother's humble dwelling.
"Why, Andy, you're out of breath. What's happened?" asked Mrs. Burke.
"I was afraid of bein' robbed," said Andy.
"The robber wouldn't get much that would steal from you, Andy."
"I don't know that, mother. I ain't so poor as you think. Look there, now!"
Here he displayed the roll of bills. There were twenty fives, which made quite a thick roll.
"Where did you get so much, Andy?" asked his sister Mary.
"How much is it?" asked his mother.
"A hundred dollars," answered Andy, proudly.
"A hundred dollars!" repeated his mother, with apprehension. "Oh, Andy, I hope you haven't been stealing?"
"Did you ever know me to stale, mother?" said Andy.
"No, but I thought you might be tempted. Whose money is it?"
"It's yours, mother."
"Mine!" exclaimed Mrs. Burke, in astonishment. "You're joking now, Andy."
"No, I'm not. It's yours."
"Where did it come from, then?"
"Colonel Preston sent it to you as a present."
"I am afraid you are not tellin' me the truth, Andy," said his mother, doubtfully. "Why should he send me so much money?"
"Listen, and I'll tell you, mother, and you'll see it's the truth I've been tellin'."
Thereupon he told the story of his adventure with the highwayman and how he had saved Colonel Preston from being robbed.
His mother listened with pride, for though Andy spoke modestly, she could see that he had acted in a brave and manly way, and it made her proud of him.
"So the colonel," Andy concluded, "wanted to give me a hundred dollars, but I didn't like to take it myself. But when he said he would give it to you, I couldn't say anything ag'inst that. So here it is, mother, and I hope you'll spend some of it on yourself."
"I don't feel as if it belonged to me, Andy. It was you that he meant it for."
"Keep it, mother, and it'll do to use when we nade it."
"I don't like to keep so much money in the house, Andy. We might be robbed."
"You can put part of it in the savings bank, mother."
This course was adopted, and Andy himself carried eighty dollars, and deposited it in a savings bank in Melville, a few days afterward.
Meanwhile Colonel Preston told the story of Andy's prowess, at home. But Mrs. Preston was prejudiced against Andy, and listened coldly.
"It seems to me, Colonel Preston," she said, "you are making altogether too much of that Irish boy. He puts on enough airs to make one sick already."
"I never observed it, my dear," said the colonel, mildly.
"Everyone else does. He thought himself on a level with our Godfrey."
"He is Godfrey's superior in some respects."
"Oh, well, if you are going to exalt him above your own flesh and blood, I won't stay and listen to you."
"You disturb yourself unnecessarily, my dear. I have no intention of adopting him in place of my son. But he has done me a great service this after-noon, and displayed a coolness and courage very unusual in a boy of his age. But for him, I should be eight hundred dollars poorer."
"Oh, well, you can give him fifty cents, and he will be well paid for his services, as you call them."
"Fifty cents!" repeated her husband.
"Well, a dollar, if you like."
"I have given him a hundred dollars."
"A hundred dollars!" almost screamed Mrs. Preston, who was a very mean woman. "Are you insane?"
"Not that I am aware of, my dear."
"It is perfectly preposterous to give such a sum to such a boy."
"I ought to say that I gave it to him for his mother. He was not willing to accept it for himself."
"That's a likely story," said Mrs. Preston, incredulously. "He only wants to make a favorable impression upon you—perhaps to get more out of you."
"You misjudge him, my dear."
"I know he is an artful, intriguing young rascal. You give him a hundred dollars, yet you refused to give Godfrey ten dollars last week."
"For a very good reason. He has a liberal allowance, and must keep within it. He did not need the money he asked for."
"Yet you lavish a hundred dollars on this boy."
"I felt justified in doing so. Which was better, to give him that sum, or to lose eight hundred?"
"I don't like the boy, and I never shall. I suppose he will be strutting around, boasting of his great achievement. If he had a gun it was nothing to do."
"I suspect Godfrey would hardly have ventured upon it," said the colonel, smiling.
"Oh, of course, Godfrey is vastly inferior to the Irish boy!" remarked Mrs. Preston, ironically. "You admire the family so much that I suppose if I were taken away, you would marry his mother and establish her in my place."
"If you have any such apprehensions, my dear, your best course is to outlive her. That will effectually prevent my marrying her, and I pledge you my word that, while you are alive, I shall not think of eloping with her."
"It is very well to jest about it," said Mrs. Preston, tossing her head.
"I am precisely of your opinion, my dear. As you observe, that is precisely what I am doing."
So the interview terminated. It was very provoking to Mrs. Preston that her husband should have given away a hundred dollars to Andy Burke's mother, but the thing was done, and could not be undone. However, she wrote an account of the affair to Godfrey, who, she knew, would sympathize fully with her view of the case. I give some extracts from her letter:
"Your father seems perfectly infatuated with that low Irish boy. Of course, I allude to Andy Burke. He has gone so far as to give him a hundred dollars. Yesterday, in riding home from Melville, with eight hundred dollars in his pocketbook, he says he was stopped by a highwayman, who demanded his money or his life. Very singularly, Andy came up just in the nick of time with a gun, and made a great show of interfering, and finally drove the man away, as your father reports. He is full of praise of Andy, and, as I said, gave him a hundred dollars, when two or three would have been quite enough, even had the rescue been real. But of this I have my doubts. It is very strange that the boy should have been on the spot just at the right time, still more strange that a full-grown man should have been frightened away by a boy of fifteen. In fact, I think it is what they call a 'put-up job.' I think the robber and Andy were confederates, and that the whole thing was cut and dried, that the man should make the attack, and Andy should appear and frighten him away, for the sake of a reward which I dare say the two have shared together. This is what I think about the matter. I haven't said so to your father, because he is so infatuated with the Irish boy that it would only make him angry, but I have no doubt that you will agree with me. [It may be said here that Godfrey eagerly adopted his mother's view, and was equally provoked at his father's liberality to his young enemy.] Your father says he won't give you the ten dollars you asked for. He can lavish a hundred dollars on Andy, but he has no money to give his own son. But sooner or later that boy will be come up with—sooner or later he will show himself in his true colors, and your father will be obliged to confess that he has been deceived. It puts me out of patience when I think of him.
"We shall expect you home on Friday afternoon of next week, as usual."
Andy was quite unconscious of the large space which he occupied in the thoughts of Mrs. Preston and Godfrey, and of the extent to which he troubled them. He went on, trying to do his duty, and succeeding fully in satisfying the Misses Grant, who had come to feel a strong interest in his welfare.
Three weeks later, Sophia Grant, who had been to the village store on an errand, returned home, looking greatly alarmed.
"What is the matter, Sophia?" asked her sister. "You look as if you had seen a ghost."
"Just so, Priscilla," she said; "no, I don't mean that, but we may all be ghosts in a short time."
"What do you mean?"
"Smallpox is in town!"
"Who's got it?"
"Colonel Preston; and his wife won't stay in the house. She is packing up to go off, and I expect the poor man'll die all by himself, unless somebody goes and takes care of him, and then it'll spread, and we'll all die of it."
This was certainly startling intelligence. Andy pitied the colonel, who had always treated him well. It occurred to him that his mother had passed through an attack of smallpox in her youth, and could take care of the colonel without danger. He resolved to consult her about it at once.
CHAPTER XXI A MODEL WIFE
Colonel Preston, returning from a trip to Boston, in which, probably, he had been unconsciously exposed to the terrible disease referred to, was taken sick, and his wife, wholly unsuspicious of her husband's malady, sent for the doctor.
The latter examined his patient and, on leaving the sick-chamber, beckoned Mrs. Preston to follow him.
"What is the matter with him, doctor?" asked Mrs. Preston. The physician looked grave.
"I regret to say, Mrs. Preston, that he has the smallpox."
"The smallpox!" almost shrieked Mrs. Preston. "Oh! what will become of me?"
Dr. Townley was rather disgusted to find her first thought was about herself, not about her stricken husband.
"It's catching, isn't it, doctor?" she asked, in great agitation.
"I am sorry to say that it is, madam."
"Do you think I will take it?"
"I cannot take it upon myself to say."
"And I was in the same room with him," wailed Mrs. Preston, "and never knew the awful danger! Oh, I wouldn't have the smallpox for this world! If I didn't die, I should be all marked up for life."
"You haven't much beauty to spoil," thought the doctor; but this thought he prudently kept to himself.
"I must leave the house at once. I will go to my brother's house till he has recovered," said Mrs. Preston, in agitation.
"What!" exclaimed the doctor, in surprise, "and leave your husband alone!"
"I can't take care of him—you must see that I can't," said Mrs. Preston, fretfully. "I can't expose my life without doing him any good."
"I expose myself every time I visit him," said the doctor. "I never had the smallpox. Have you been vaccinated?"
"Yes, I believe so—I'm sure I don't know. But people sometimes take the smallpox even after they have been vaccinated. I should be so frightened that I could do no good."
"Then," said the doctor, gravely, "you have decided to leave your husband?"
"Yes, doctor, I must. It is my duty—to my boy," answered Mrs. Preston, catching at this excuse with eagerness. "I must live for him, you know. Of course, if I could do any good, it would be different. But what would Godfrey do if both his father and mother should die?"
She looked up into his face, hoping that he would express approval of her intentions; but the doctor was too honest for this. In truth, he was disgusted with the woman's selfishness, and would like to have said so; but this politeness forbade. At any rate, he was not going to be trapped into any approval of her selfish and cowardly determination.
"What do you wish to be done, Mrs. Preston?" he asked. "Of course, your husband must be taken care of."
"Hire a nurse, doctor. A nurse will do much more good than I could. She will know just what to do. Most of them have had the smallpox. It is really much better for my husband that it should be so. Of course, you can pay high wages—anything she asks," added Mrs. Preston, whose great fear made her, for once in her life, liberal.
"I suppose that will be the best thing to do. You wish me, then, to engage a nurse?"
"Yes, doctor, if you will be so kind."
"When do you go away?"
"At once. I shall pack up my clothes immediately. On the whole, I think I will go to the town where Godfrey is at school, and board there for the present. I must see him, and prevent him from coming home."
"You will go into your husband's chamber and bid him good-by?"
"No; I cannot think of it. It would only be useless exposure."
"What will he think?"
"Explain it to him, doctor. Tell him that I hope he will get well very soon, and that I feel it my duty to go away now on Godfrey's account. I am sure he will see that it is my duty."
"I wonder what excuse she would have if she had no son for a pretext?" thought the doctor.
"Well," he said, "I will do as you request."
"See that he has the best of care. Get him two nurses, if you think best. Don't spare expense."
"What extraordinary liberality in Mrs. Preston," thought the physician.
He went back into the chamber of his patient.
"Doctor," said Colonel Preston, "you didn't tell me what was the matter with me. Am I seriously sick?"
"I am sorry to say that you are."
"Not necessarily. You have the smallpox."
"Have I?" said the patient, thoughtfully.
"It's an awkward thing to tell him that his wife is going to leave him," the doctor said to himself. "However, it must be done."
"Have you told my wife, doctor?"
"I just told her."
"What does she say?"
"She is very much startled, and (now for it), thinks, under the circumstances, she ought not to run the risk of taking care of you on account of Godfrey."
"Perhaps she is right," said Colonel Preston, slowly.
He was not surprised to hear it, but it gave him a pang, nevertheless.
"She wants me to engage a nurse for you."
"Yes, that will be necessary."
There was a pause.
"When is she going?" he asked, a little later.
"As soon as possible. She is going to board near the school where Godfrey is placed."
"Shall I see her?"
"She thinks it best not to risk coming into the chamber, lest she should carry the infection to Godfrey."
"I suppose that is only prudent," returned the sick man, but in his heart he wished that his wife had shown less prudence, and a little more feeling for him.
"Have you thought of any nurse?" he asked.
"I have thought of the widow Burke."
"She might not dare to come."
"She has had the disease. I know this from a few slight marks still left on her face. Of course, you would be willing to pay a liberal price?"
"Any price," said Colonel Preston, energetically. "It is a service which, I assure you, I shall not soon forget."
"I must see her at once, for your wife will leave directly."
"Pray, do so," said Colonel Preston. "Tell my wife," he said, after a pause, "that I hope soon to have recovered, so that it may be safe for her to come back."
There was a subdued bitterness in his voice, which the doctor detected, and did not wonder at. He gave the message, as requested.
"I am sure I hope so, Dr. Townley," said Mrs. Preston. "I shall be tortured with anxiety. I hope you will write me daily how my poor husband is getting along?"
"Perhaps the paper might carry the infection," said the doctor, testing the real extent of her solicitude.
"I didn't think of that," answered Mrs. Preston, hastily. "On the whole, you needn't write, then. It might communicate the disease to Godfrey."
"She finds Godfrey very useful," the doctor thought.
"I will bear my anxiety as I can," she continued. "Have you thought of anyone for a nurse?"
"I have thought of Mrs. Burke."
"She is poor, and will come if you offer her a good price. Try to get her."
"I think she will come. I must go at once, for your husband needs immediate attention."
"Get her to come at once, Dr. Townley! Oh, do! My husband may want something, and I can't go into the room. My duty to my dear, only son will not permit me. I hope Mr. Preston understands my motives in going away?"
"I presume he does," said the doctor, rather equivocally.
"Tell him how great a sacrifice it is for me to leave his bedside. It is a terrible trial for me, but my duty to my son makes it imperative."
The doctor bowed.
He drove at once to the humble dwelling of Mrs. Burke.
His errand was briefly explained.
"Can you come?" he asked. "I am authorized to offer you ten dollars a week for the time you spend there."
"I would come in a minute, doctor, but what shall I do with Mary?"
"She shall stay at my house. I will gladly take charge of her."
"You are very kind, doctor. I wouldn't want to expose her, but I don't mind myself. I don't think I am in danger, for I've had the smallpox already."
"Can you be ready in five minutes? Tell Mary to pack up her things, and go to my house at once. We'll take good care of her."
In less than an hour Mrs. Burke was installed at the bedside of the sick man as his nurse. As she entered the house, Mrs. Preston left it, bound for the railway depot.
"I'm so glad you're here," she said, greeting the widow Burke with unwonted cordiality. "I am sure you will take the best care of my husband. I have told the doctor to pay you whatever you ask."
"I'll do my best, Mrs. Preston, but not for the money," answered Mrs. Burke. "Your husband shall get well, if good care can cure him."
"I've no doubt of it; but the carriage is here, and I must go. Tell my husband how sorry I am to leave him."
So Mrs. Preston went away, leaving a stranger to fulfill her own duties at the bedside of her husband.
Thus it happened that, when Andy came home, he found his mother already gone, and his sister on the point of starting for the doctor's house. His idea had already been carried out.
CHAPTER XXII COLONEL PRESTON'S RECOVERY
Four weeks afterward, we will introduce the reader into the bedchamber of Colonel Preston. His sickness has been severe. At times recovery was doubtful, but Mrs. Burke has proved a careful and devoted nurse, intelligent and faithful enough to carry out the directions of the physician.
"How do you feel this morning, Colonel Preston?" asked the doctor, who had just entered the chamber.
"Better, doctor. I feel quite an appetite."
"You are looking better—decidedly better. The disease has spent its force, and retreated from the field."
"It is to you that the credit belongs, Dr. Townley."
"Only in part. The greater share belongs to your faithful nurse, Mrs. Burke."
"I shall not soon forget my obligations to her," said the sick man, significantly.
"Now, Colonel Preston," said Mrs. Burke, "you are making too much of what little I have done."
"That is impossible, Mrs. Burke. It is to your good nursing and the doctor's skill that I owe my life, and I hardly know to which the most."
"To the doctor, sir. I only followed out his directions."
"At the expense of your own health. You show the effects of your long-continued care."
"It won't take long to pick up," said Mrs. Burke, cheerfully.
"Is the danger of contagion over, doctor?" asked the patient.
"Then, would it not be well to write to Mrs. Preston? Not that I mean to give up my good nurse just yet; that is, if she is willing to stay."
"I will stay as long as you need me, sir."
"That is well; but Mrs. Preston may wish to return, now that there's no further danger."
"I will write to her at once."
The following letter was dispatched to Mrs. Preston:
"MRS. PRESTON:— "Dear Madam: It gives me great pleasure to inform you that your husband is so far recovered that there is no danger now of infection. You can return with safety, and he will, doubtless, be glad to see you. He has been very ill, indeed—in danger of his life; but, thanks to the devotion of Mrs. Burke, who has proved an admirable nurse, he is now on the high road to recovery. Yours respectfully, "John Townley."
"I think that will bring her," said the doctor.
But he reckoned without his host.
The next day he received the following letter, on scented paper:
"MY DEAR DOCTOR TOWNLEY: You cannot think how rejoiced I am to receive the tidings of my husband's convalescence. I have been so tortured with anxiety during the last four weeks! You cannot think how wretchedly anxious I have been. I could not have endured to stay away from his bedside but that my duty imperatively required it. I have lost flesh, and my anxiety has worn upon me. Now, how gladly will I resume my place at the bedside of my husband, restored by your skill. I am glad the nurse has proved faithful. It was a good chance for her, for she shall be liberally paid, and no doubt the money will be welcome. But don't you think it might be more prudent for me to defer my return until next week? It will be safer, I think, and I owe it to my boy to be very careful. You know, the contagion may still exist. It is hard for me to remain longer away, when I would fain fly to the bedside of Mr. Preston, but I feel that it is best. Say to him, with my love, that he may expect me next week. Accept my thanks for your attention to him. I shall never forget it; and believe me to be, my dear doctor, your obliged "Lucinda Preston."
Dr. Townley threw down this letter with deep disgust.
"Was ever any woman more disgustingly selfish?" he exclaimed. "Her husband might have died, so far as she was concerned."
Of course, he had to show this letter to Colonel Preston.
The latter read it, with grave face, and the doctor thought he heard a sigh.
"My wife is very prudent," he said, with a touch of bitterness in his voice.
"She will be here next week," said the doctor, having nothing else to answer.
"I think she will run no risk then," said the sick man, cynically.
But Mrs. Preston did not return in a week. It was a full week and a half before she arrived at her own house.
The doctor was just coming out of the front door.
"How is my husband?" she asked.
"Not far from well. He is still weak, of course."
"And are you sure," she said, anxiously, "that there is no danger of infection?"
"Not the slightest, madam," said Dr. Townley, coldly.
"I am so glad I can see him once more. You cannot imagine," she exclaimed, clasping her hands, "how much I have suffered in my suspense!"
The doctor remained cool and unmoved. He didn't feel that he could respond fittingly, being absolutely incredulous.
Mrs. Preston saw it, and was nettled. She knew that she was a hypocrite, but did not like to have the doctor, by his silence, imply his own conviction of it.
"Mine has been a hard position," she continued.
"Your husband has not had an easy time," said the doctor, significantly.
"But he has had good care—Mrs. Burke was a good nurse?"
"She must be paid well."
"I offered her ten dollars a week."
"Humph!" said Mrs. Preston, doubtfully, in whose eyes five dollars would have been liberal compensation. "It has been a good chance for her."
"It is far from adequate," said the doctor, disgusted. "Money cannot pay for such service as hers, not to speak of the risk she ran, for cases have been known of persons being twice attacked by the disease."
"You don't think my husband will have a relapse?" asked Mrs. Preston, with fresh alarm.
"Not if he has the same care for a short time longer."
"He shall have it. She must stay. Of course her duties are lighter now, and six dollars a week for the remainder of the time will be enough—don't you think so?"
"No, I don't," said the doctor, bluntly; "and, moreover, I am quite sure your husband will not consent to reducing the wages of one whose faithful care has saved his life."
"Oh, well, you know best," said Mrs. Preston, slowly. "I am quite willing that she should be well paid."
Mrs. Preston went upstairs, and entered her husband's chamber.
"Oh, my dear husband!" she exclaimed, theatrically, hurrying across the room, with affected emotion. "I am so glad to find you so much better!"
"I am glad to see you back, Lucinda," said Colonel Preston; but he spoke coldly, and without the slightest affectation of sentimental joy. "I have passed through a good deal since you left me."
"And so have I!" exclaimed his wife. "Oh, how my heart has been rent with anxiety, as I thought of you lying sick, while duty kept me from your side."
"Is Godfrey well?" asked her husband, taking no notice of her last speech.
"Yes, poor boy! He sends his love, and is so anxious to see you."
"Let him come next Friday afternoon," said the sick man, who doubted this statement, yet wanted to believe it true.
"He shall. I will write to him at once."
So Mrs. Preston resumed her place in the house; but from that time there was a something she could not understand in her husband's manner. He was graver than formerly, and sometimes she saw him watching her intently, and, after a little, turn away, with a sigh.
He had found her out in all her intense selfishness and want of feeling, and he could never again regard her as formerly, even though she tried hard at times, by a show of affection, to cover up her heartless neglect.
CHAPTER XXIII MRS. BURKE HAS GOOD FORTUNE
Mrs. Burke remained a week longer to nurse Colonel Preston. At the end of this time Mr. Preston thought he was well enough to dispense with a nurse, and accordingly she prepared to take leave.
"I shall always remember your kind service, Mrs. Burke," said the colonel, warmly.
"It was only my duty, sir," said the widow, modestly.
"Not all would have done their duty so faithfully."
"I am glad to see you well again," said the widow.
"Not more than I am to get well, I assure you," said he. "Whenever you are in any trouble, come to me."
With these words, he placed in her hands an envelope, which, as she understood, contained the compensation for her services. She thanked him, and took her departure.
Mrs. Preston was curious to know how much her husband paid the nurse, and asked the question.
"A hundred dollars," he replied.
"A hundred dollars!" she repeated, in a tone which implied disapproval. "I thought she agreed to come for ten dollars a week."
"So she did."
"She has not been here ten weeks; only about six."
"That is true, but she has richly earned all I gave her."
"Ten dollars a week I consider very handsome remuneration to one in her position in life," said Mrs. Preston, pointedly.
"Lucinda, but for her attention I probably should not have lived through this sickness. Do you think a hundred dollars so much to pay for your husband's life?"
"You exaggerate the value of her services," said his wife.
"Dr. Townley says the same thing that I do."
"You are both infatuated with that woman," said Mrs. Preston, impatiently.
"We only do her justice."
"Oh, well, have it your own way. But I should have only paid her what I agreed to. It is a great windfall for her."
"She deserves it."
Mrs. Preston said no more at this time, for she found her husband too "infatuated," as she termed it, to agree with her. She did, however, open the subject to Godfrey when he came home, and he adopted her view of the case.
"She and her low son are trying to get all they can out of father," he said. "It's just like them."
"I wish I could make your father see it," said Mrs. Preston, "but he seems prepossessed in her favor."
"If he can give a hundred dollars to her, he can give me a little extra money; I'm going to ask him."
So he did the same evening.
"Will you give me ten dollars, father?" he asked.
"Oh, for various things. I need it."
"I give you an allowance of three dollars a week."
"I have a good many expenses."
"That will meet all your reasonable expenses. I was far from having as much money as that when I was of your age."
"I don't see why you won't give me the money," said Godfrey, discontentedly.
"I don't think you need it."
"You are generous enough to others."
"To whom do you refer?"
"You give plenty of money to that Irish boy and his mother."
"They have both rendered me great services. The boy saved me from being robbed. The mother, in all probability, saved me from falling a victim to smallpox. But that has nothing to do with your affairs. It is scarcely proper for a boy like you to criticise his father's way of disposing of his money."
"I confess I think Godfrey is right in commenting upon your extraordinary liberality to the Burkes," observed Mrs. Preston.
"Lucinda," said her husband, gravely, "when my own wife deserted my sick bed, leaving me to wrestle alone with a terrible and dangerous disease, I was fortunate enough to find in Mrs. Burke a devoted nurse. The money I have paid her is no adequate compensation, nor is it all that I intend to do for her."
There was a part of this speech that startled Mrs. Preston. Never before had her husband complained of her desertion of him in his sickness, and she hoped that he had been imposed upon by the excuse which she gave of saving herself for Godfrey. Now she saw that in this she had not been altogether successful, and she regretted having referred to Mrs. Burke, and so brought this reproach upon herself. She felt it necessary to say something in extenuation.
"It was because I wanted to live for Godfrey," she said, with a flushed face. "Nothing but that would have taken me away from you at such a time. It was a great trial to me," she continued, putting up her handkerchief to eyes that were perfectly dry.
"We will say no more about it," said Colonel Preston, gravely. "I shall not refer to it, unless you undervalue my obligations to Mrs. Burke."
Mrs. Preston thought it best not to reply, but on one thing that her husband had said, she commented to Godfrey.
"Your father speaks of giving more money to Mrs. Burke. I suppose we shall not know anything about it if he does."
"Perhaps he will leave her some money in his will," said Godfrey.
"Very likely. If he does, there is such a thing as contesting a will—that is, if he gives her much."
Mrs. Preston was right. Her husband did intend to give his devoted nurse something in his will, but of that more anon. There was one thing which he did at once, and that was to buy the cottage which Mrs. Burke occupied, from the heir, a non-resident. Mrs. Burke didn't learn this until she went to pay her rent to the storekeeper, who had acted as agent for the owner.
"I have nothing to do with the house any longer, Mrs. Burke," he said.
"Then who shall I pay rent to?" said Mrs. Burke.
"To Colonel Preston, who has recently bought the house."
Mrs. Burke, therefore, called at the house of the colonel.
Mr. and Mrs. Preston were sitting together when the servant announced that she wished to speak to him.
"You seem to have a good deal of business with Mrs. Burke," said his wife, in a very unpleasant tone.
"None that I care to conceal," he said, smiling. "Show Mrs. Burke in here, Jane," he continued, addressing the servant.
"Good-morning, Mrs. Burke," he said, pleasantly.
"Good-morning," said Mrs. Preston, coldly.
"Good-morning, sir, I'm glad to see you looking so much better."
"Oh, yes, I am feeling pretty well now."
"I didn't find out till just now, Colonel Preston, that you were my landlord."
Here Mrs. Preston pricked up her ears, for it was news to her also, as her husband had not mentioned his recent purchase.
"Yes, I thought I would buy the house, as it was in the market."
"I have come to pay my rent. I have been in the habit of paying fifteen dollars a quarter."
"I won't be a hard landlord," said Colonel Preston. "You are welcome to live in the house, if it suits you, free of all rent."
"This is too much kindness," said Mrs. Burke, quite overwhelmed by the unexpected liberality.
Mrs. Preston thought so, too, but could not well say anything.
"There's been kindness on both sides, Mrs. Burke. Put up your money, I don't want it, but I have no doubt you will find use for it. Buy yourself a new dress."
"Thank you, Colonel Preston. You are very generous, and I am very grateful," said the widow.
"I have something to be grateful for also, Mrs. Burke. If you want any repairs, just let me know, and they shall be attended to."
"Thank you, sir, but the house is very comfortable."
She soon took her leave.
"When did you buy that house, Colonel Preston?" asked his wife.
"A month since."
"You didn't say anything about it to me."
"Nor to anyone else, except those with whom I did the business."
Mrs. Preston would like to have said more, but she did not think it expedient, remembering what she had brought upon herself before.
CHAPTER XXIV ANDY'S JOURNEY
Toward the first of April of the succeeding year, Miss Sophia Grant took a severe cold, not serious, indeed, but such as to make it prudent for her to remain indoors. This occasioned a little derangement of her sister's plans; for both sisters were in the habit, about the first of April and of October, of taking a journey to Boston—partly for a change, and partly because at these times certain banks in which they owned stock declared dividends, which they took the opportunity to collect. But this spring it seemed doubtful if they could go. Yet they wanted the money—a part of it, at least.
"Send Andrew," suggested Miss Sophia, after her sister had stated the difficulty.
In general Miss Priscilla did not approve Sophia's suggestions, but this struck her more favorably.
"I don't know but we might," she said, slowly. "He is a boy to be trusted."
"And I think he is a smart boy."
"He can take care of himself. You remember how he saved Colonel Preston from the robber?"
"Then, on the other hand, he has never been to Boston."
"He could ask."
"I don't suppose there would be any particular difficulty. I could give him all the necessary directions."
"I'll propose it to him."
So, after supper, as Andy was going out into the woodshed for an armful of wood, Miss Priscilla stopped him.
"Were you ever in Boston, Andy?" asked she.
"I wish you had been."
"Because I should like to send you there on some business."
"I'll go, ma'am," said Andy, eagerly.
Like most boys of his age, no proposition could have been more agreeable.
"Do you think you could find your way there, and around the city?"
"No fear of that, ma'am," said Andy, confidently.
"We generally go ourselves, as you know, but my sister is sick, and I don't like to leave her."
"Of course not, ma'am," said Andy, quite approving any plan that opened the way for a journey to him.
"We own bank stock, and on the first of April they pay us dividends. Now, if we send you, do you think you can get to the bank, get the money, and bring it back safe?"
"I'll do it for you, ma'am," said Andy.
"Well, I'll think of it between now and next week. If we send you at all, you must start next Monday."
"I'll go any day, ma'am," said Andy, "any day you name."
Miss Priscilla finally decided to send Andrew, but cautioned him against saying anything about it, except to his own family.
On Monday morning, just before the morning train was to start, Andrew appeared on the platform of the modest village depot with a small carpetbag in his hand, lent him by the Misses Grant.
"Give me a ticket to Boston," said he to the station master.
Godfrey Preston, who was about to return to his boarding school, had just purchased a ticket, and overheard this. He didn't much care to speak to Andy, but his curiosity overcame his pride.
"Are you going to Boston?" he asked.
"Yes," said Andy.
"What are you going for?"
"Has Miss Grant turned you off?"
"She didn't say anything about it this morning. Why, do you want to take my place?"
"Do you think I'd stoop to be a hired boy?" said Godfrey, haughtily.
"You wouldn't need to stoop," said Andy; "you ain't any too tall."
Godfrey winced at this. He was not tall of his age, and he wanted to be. Andy had been growing faster than he, and was now, though scarcely as old, quite two inches taller.
"It makes no difference about being tall," he rejoined. "I am a gentleman, and don't have to work for a living like you do."
"What are you going to be when you grow up?"
"Then won't you work for money?"
"Then you'll be a hired man, and work for a living."
"That's very different. When are you coming back?"
"When I've finished my business."
"How soon will that be?"
"I can't tell yet."
"Humph! I shouldn't wonder if you were running away."
"Don't you tell anybody," said Andy, in a bantering tone.
"Where did you get the money to pay for your ticket?"
"What would you give to know?"
"You are impudent," said Godfrey, his cheek flushing.
"So are your questions," said Andy.
"I dare say you stole it."
"Look here, Godfrey Preston," said Andy, roused to indignation by this insinuation, "you'd better not say that again, if you know what's best for yourself."
He advanced a step with a threatening look, and Godfrey instinctively receded.
"That comes of my speaking to my inferior," he said.
"You can't do that."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know anybody that's inferior to you."
Godfrey turned on his heel wrathfully, muttering something about a "low beggar," which Andy, not hearing, did not resent.
The whistle of the locomotive was heard, and the cars came along.
With high anticipation of pleasure, Andy got aboard. He had before him a journey of close upon a hundred miles, and he wished it had been longer. He had never been much of a traveler, and the scenes which were to greet his eyes were all novel. He had heard a good deal of Boston also, and he wanted to see it.
Besides the money which Miss Grant had given him to defray his expenses, he had with him ten dollars of his own. Since his mother had received the two donations from Colonel Preston she made Andy keep half his wages for his own use. These were now seven dollars a week, so he kept three and a half, and of this sum was able to lay up about half. So he had a supply of money in his trunk, of which he had taken with him ten dollars.
"Maybe I'll see something I want to buy in the city," he said to himself.
I don't mean to dwell upon the journey. There is nothing very exciting in a railway trip, even of a hundred miles, nowadays, unless, indeed, the cars run off the track, or over the embankment, and then it is altogether too exciting to be agreeable. For the sake of my young hero, whom I really begin to like, though he was "only an Irish boy," I am glad to say that nothing of that sort took place; but in good time—about the time when the clock on the Old South steeple indicated noon—Andy's train drove into the Boston & Maine Railway depot, fronting on Haymarket Square.
"Inquire your way to Washington Street."
That was the first direction that Andy had received from Miss Priscilla, and that was what our hero did first.
The question was addressed to a very civil young man, who politely gave Andy the necessary directions. So, in a short time, he reached Washington Street by way of Court Street.
The next thing was to inquire the way to the Merchants' Bank, that being the one in which the ladies owned the largest amount of stock.
"Where is the Merchants' Bank?" asked Andy of a boy, whose blacking-box denoted his occupation.
"I'll show you, mister," said the boy. "Come along." His young guide, instead of taking him to the bank, took him to the side door of the court-house, and said:
"Go in there."
It was a massive stone building, and Andy, not suspecting that he was being fooled, went in. Wandering at random, he found his way into a room, where a trial was going on. That opened his eyes.
"He cheated me," thought Andy. "Maybe I'll get even with him."
He retraced his steps, and again found himself in the street. His fraudulent young guide, with a grin on a face not over clean, was awaiting his appearance.
CHAPTER XXV THE MERCHANT FROM PORTLAND
"Look here, young chap," said Andy, "what made you tell me that was the Merchants' Bank?"
"Isn't it?" asked the bootblack, with a grin.
"It's the bank where you'll be wanted some time. Shouldn't wonder if they'd make a mistake and lock you up instead of your money."
"Have you got any money in the Merchants' Bank?" asked the other.
"I'm goin' to see if they won't give me some. If you hadn't cheated me, maybe I'd have invited you to dine with me at my hotel."
"Where are you stoppin'?" asked the street boy, not quite knowing how much of Andy's story to believe.
"At the most fashionable hotel."
"You're good at guessin'. Perhaps you'd like to dine there?"
"I don't know as they'd let me in," said the boy, doubtfully; "but I'll show you where there's a nice eatin' house, where they don't charge half so much."
"'Twouldn't be fashionable enough for me. I shall have to dine alone. See what comes of tryin' to fool your grandfather."
Andy went on, leaving the boy in doubt whether his jest had really lost him a dinner.
Andy didn't go to the Parker House, however. His expenses were to be paid by the Misses Grant, and he felt that it wouldn't be right to be extravagant at their expense.
"I shall come across an eatin' house presently," he said to himself.
Not far off he found one with the bill of fare exposed outside, with the prices. Andy examined it, and found that it was not an expensive place. He really felt hungry after his morning's ride, and determined, before he attended to his business, to get dinner. He accordingly entered, and seated himself at one of the tables. A waiter came up and awaited his commands.
"What'll you have?" he asked.
"Bring me a plate of roast beef, and a cup of coffee," said Andy, "and be quick about it, for I haven't eaten anything for three weeks."
"Then I don't think one plate will be enough for you," said the waiter, laughing.
"It'll do to begin on," said Andy.
The order was quickly filled, and Andy set to work energetically.
It is strange how we run across acquaintances when we least expect it. Andy had no idea that he knew anybody in the eating house, and therefore didn't look around, feeling no special interest in the company. Yet there was one present who recognized him as soon as he entered, and watched him with strong interest. The interest was not friendly, however, as might be inferred from the scowl with which he surveyed him. This will not be a matter of surprise to the reader when I say that the observer was no other than Fairfax, whose attempt to rob Colonel Preston had been defeated by Andy.
He recognized the boy at once, both from his appearance and his voice, and deep feelings of resentment ran in his breast. To be foiled was disagreeable enough, but to be foiled by a boy was most humiliating, and he had vowed revenge, if ever an opportunity occurred. For this reason he felt exultant when he saw his enemy walking into the eating house.
"I'll follow him," he said to himself, "and it'll go hard if I don't get even with him for that trick he played on me."
But how did it happen that Andy did not recognize Fairfax?
For two reasons: First, because the adventurer was sitting behind him, and our hero faced the front of the room. Next, had he seen him, it was doubtful if he would have recognized a man whom he was far from expecting to see. For Fairfax was skilled in disguises, and no longer was the black-whiskered individual that we formerly knew him. From motives of prudence, he had shaved off his black hair and whiskers, and now appeared in a red wig, and whiskers of the same hue. If any of my readers would like to know how effectual this disguise is, let them try it, and I will guarantee that they won't know themselves when they come to look at their likeness in the mirror.
After disposing of what he had ordered, Andy also ordered a plate of apple dumpling, which he ate with great satisfaction.
"I wouldn't mind eatin' here every day," he thought. "Maybe I'll be in business here some day myself, and then I'll come here and dine."
Fairfax was through with his dinner, but waited till Andy arose. He then arose and followed him to the desk, where both paid at the same time. He was careless of recognition, for he felt confident in his disguise.
"Now," thought Andy, "I must go to the bank."
But he didn't know where the bank was. So, when he got into the street, he asked a gentleman whom he met: "Sir, can you direct me to the Merchants' Bank?"
"It is in State Street," said the gentleman. "I am going past it, so if you will come along with me, I will show you."
"Thank you, sir," said our hero, politely.
"Merchants' Bank!" said Fairfax to himself, beginning to feel interested. "I wonder what he's going there for? Perhaps I can raise a little money, besides having my revenge."
He had an added inducement now in following our hero.
When Andy went into the bank, Fairfax followed him. He was in the room when Andy received the dividends, and, with sparkling eyes, he saw that it was, a thick roll of bills, representing, no doubt, a considerable sum of money.
"That money must be mine," he said to himself. "It can't be the boy's. He must have been sent by some other person. The loss will get him into trouble. Very likely he will be considered a thief. That would just suit me."
Andy was careful, however. He put the money into a pocketbook, or, rather, wallet, with which he had been supplied by the Misses Grant, put it in his inside pocket, and then buttoned his coat up tight. He was determined not to lose anything by carelessness.
But this was not his last business visit. There was another bank in the same street where it was necessary for him to call and receive dividends. Again Fairfax followed him, and again he saw Andy receive a considerable sum of money.
"There's fat pickings here," thought Fairfax. "Now, I must manage, in some way, to relieve him of that money. There's altogether too much for a youngster like him. Shouldn't wonder if the money belonged to that man I tried to rob. If so, all the better."
In this conjecture, as we know, Fairfax was mistaken. However, it made comparatively little difference to him whose money it was, as long as there was a chance of his getting it into his possession. The fact was, that his finances were not in a very flourishing condition just at present. He could have done better to follow some honest and respectable business, and avoid all the dishonest shifts and infractions of law to which he was compelled to resort, but he had started wrong, and it was difficult to persuade him that even now it would have been much better for him to amend his life and ways. In this state of affairs he thought it a great piece of good luck that he should have fallen in with a boy in charge of a large sum of money, whom, from his youth and inexperience, he would have less trouble in robbing than an older person.