"No, indeed," responded Rex. Then he folded up his napkin quickly and left the dining room.
"Has this visit got anything to do with my father?" Miles whispered to Roy, as they went out into the hall together.
"I think it has, Miles, but I don't know much more about it than you do."
There was not much said by the three boys on their way down town. Rex was in one of his silent moods, and made no effort to get out of it.
Roy tried to talk, but there was such a weight on his mind that he made but poor success of the attempt.
Miles was far too excited, however, to notice the difference in manner of the twins compared with their usual cordiality.
They found Sydney waiting for them in the corridor of the hotel. He was looking very haggard, but he seemed very glad to see Miles.
"I have good news for you, my boy," he said; "good and bad, too. I have found your father, but he is not quite himself."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Miles, while Roy and Rex looked their interest.
"His mind is affected," Sydney went on. "We hope the sight of you may have a favorable effect, but be careful not to be excited yourself when you see him. Take it quite as a matter of course."
Miles drew in a long breath. It was going to be rather a difficult matter for him to take easily a meeting with the father he had thought never to see.
"Where is he?" he asked in a faint tone.
"Not far from here. Come, we will go there at once."
On the way to Mrs. Fox's Sydney explained that he and the old lady had arranged that she should give a sort of boys' party at which Mr. Darley should be present. He would then have an opportunity to study Miles quietly, while the latter was engaged in playing games.
"You look so much like him," Sydney added, "that we hope he may recognize you."
Miles appeared to be somewhat astonished when they halted before the odd little home in Seventh Street. But he said nothing, and the next moment they were all being warmly welcomed by Mrs. Fox.
The old lady was so excited that both her hands and voice trembled. She came near crying when she first saw Miles, but she greeted him exactly as she had the twins. There was a game of Fish Pond on the center table.
"Now, boys," she said, "try your luck."
They all drew up to the table, Sydney taking a rod, too. The old lady stood looking on behind Miles's chair. Presently she went out into the back room and in a few minutes returned, accompanied by a gentleman who did not look to be over thirty-seven. He was dressed very handsomely and his resemblance to Miles was striking.
"Mr. Darley, boys," said Mrs. Fox, as the two came up to the table. "Go right on with your fishing; we will watch you."
She had taken up her stand this time behind Rex, who was sitting just opposite Miles.
"Glad to meet you, boys," remarked Mr. Darley, in a pleasant voice. "How is the market?"
Rex, with an effort, collected himself sufficiently to answer, "Oh, pretty fair, sir."
"Only pretty fair, eh?" went on the other. "Keep at it, though. You're bound to win some time, as I have. Look here."
He put his hand in the side pocket of his coat and drew forth a great mass of chips, all covered with gilt paper.
A look of agony was on Miles's face. It was almost worse than finding no father at all, to find such a one as this.
"Don't you want to take my rod and fish a while, sir?" he said, feeling that it would be impossible for him to longer sit still.
"Thank you; you are very kind. I might take a single flyer."
Mr. Darley stepped around to take Miles's seat, but as the other rose they were face to face, and very close to each other for an instant. Mr. Darley put out both hands and grasped the boy by the shoulders.
"What is your name?" he said in a tone that was quite different from the one in which he had hitherto spoken. It was much more decided, and firmer.
"Miles," answered the other, trying his best to keep his excitement down.
He could see Mrs. Fox standing just behind his father, her hands clasped together in an agony of suspense.
"Miles, eh! Well, you look as if your name ought to be Maurice. Great Caesar! doesn't he look like me, Mrs. Fox?"
He wheeled around so suddenly that the poor old lady was taken quite unawares. She dropped her hands quickly to her sides and had not a word to say.
"Don't he look like me?" Mr. Darley now appealed to Sydney, who managed to stammer out: "I certainly see a strong resemblance, sir."
"What is your last name, young man?" went on the other.
Miles hesitated an instant. He was about to say Darley, but some happy instinct prompted him to substitute "Morrisey."
Mr. Darley started.
"Morrisey, you say?" he exclaimed.
A swift change passed over his features. He had dropped his hand from Miles's shoulders, but now reached forth and caught him by the arm.
"Come with me," he said quietly, and led him into the back room.
The others looked at one another without speaking. No one thought of the game. The fish lines, tangled up, were lying in the pasteboard pond.
Mrs. Fox had sunk down on the sofa, her head covered with her apron. From the inner room came the subdued sound of voices.
"Do you suppose he has recognized him?" It was Rex who at length broke the silence, and he spoke in an awed whisper.
Nobody made any reply, for footsteps were heard approaching from the rear. It was Miles. His face was handsomer than Rex had ever seen it. It was lighted up with joy.
He came straight to Rex and put a hand on his shoulder, while he leaned over till his chin rested on the other's head.
"I want to tell you first, Rex," he said, "who have been the means of bringing me to this happiness. He knows me. His mind has come back to him. He called me Maurice, and he remembers giving me to the Morriseys to take care of for a while. Then his brain went back on him, and he thought I was dead."
"Where is he?" asked Rex.
"Lying down on the bed. He is utterly exhausted. I must go back to him now," and Miles hurried off again.
REX RISES TO THE OCCASION
"It's wonderful. I never heard anything like it." This was Mrs. Fox's exclamation when the four were left alone in the front room again.
"All the credit belongs to you, Mr. Pell," she went on, turning to Sydney. "It was you thought of this way of doing things."
"Oh, he might have recognized him any other way just as quickly," returned Sydney. "And now some one must tell him about Mr. Tyler's legacy," he added. "I want to get that off my mind."
"I guess he can't stand that to-night, Mr. Pell," returned the old lady. "You'd better leave it till tomorrow. I'll keep Miles here with him to-night— there's room— and then they can both go to see you to-morrow."
"Yes, that will be the best way," Sydney agreed. "But I had hoped to get it off my mind by this time. Come, boys."
"I trust I shall see you both again," said Mrs. Fox, as she shook hands with the twins.
Then the three Pells went out and homeward. It was only nine o'clock.
"Mother ought to know, don't you think so, Syd?" said Roy.
"Yes, she must know to-night. But I don't see how I can tell her. I don't see how I can. She trusts me so fully."
"Then let me tell her," suggested Roy.
"No, no. I must confess myself. I shall do it now as soon as we get home. Then I can be ready to put myself in Mr. Darley's hands to-morrow."
"Do you think he will— will—" Rex began and came to a sudden stop.
"Send me to jail?" Syd finished for him. "He may. He has a right to do it. I deserve to go. Oh, boys, I wonder how you can bear to be with me."
"You did it for our sakes, Syd," responded Roy.
But Rex said nothing.
When they reached the house they found Eva and Jess in the parlor, entertaining company.
"Come in, boys," Eva called as they passed the door.
Roy and Rex obeyed the summons, leaving Sydney to go up to Mrs. Pell in the library.
They found Mr. Keeler to be the caller. Rex started when he saw who it was.
"Why, where is Miles?" asked Jess.
"He stayed with his father," replied Rex.
"His father!" echoed both girls. "Why, has he found him?"
"Yes," answered Roy, "Syd found him. There's a story for you, Mr. Keeler, a regular romance."
Rex began to look nervous. He feared that his escapade with Harrington was about to be related. But Roy skillfully told the main points in Miles's career without encroaching on this.
Mr. Keeler stayed until ten o'clock, and while they were talking and laughing in the parlor, the twins were thinking of what was going on in the room above.
When they went to kiss their mother good night they saw that she knew. The girls exclaimed at once at sight of her face.
"You are ill," cried Eva.
"No, Eva," rejoined Mrs. Pell, "it is worse than illness."
The tears welled up in her eyes. She could say no more.
Sydney was not with her, neither was he in his room. The girls were clamorous to know what was the matter.
"Tell them, Roy, I can't," Mrs. Pell at last found voice to say.
Rex could not stay to hear. And Roy never suffered as he did in the few moments it took him to relate his foster brother's crime. It seemed as though it were as cruel as to drive nails into the fair flesh of the young girls. And yet they must know.
"How could he do it, how could he?" Eva murmured again and again.
"Perhaps he didn't," Jess suddenly exclaimed. "He's nothing to show for it— the second will, I mean. Perhaps there's something wrong with his brain, and he only imagines there was one and he destroyed it."
But Roy shook his head. There was Ann to prove, if necessary, that she had signed the other document.
For a long while they sat there. It seemed as if black despair had settled upon them and there was no way out.
For years Mrs. Pell had leaned upon Sydney. In an emergency like the present, he would be just the one to whom she would go for counsel. And now— he had failed her utterly.
"What did you say to him, mother?" asked Roy after a while. "Were— were you kind to him?"
"I tried to be. I tried to remember that he had done all for our sakes, but I feel like a ship without a rudder."
Roy left his seat near Eva and slipped into a chair next his mother, who had bowed her head on the desk in front of her.
She had been writing a note to a charitable society of which she was a member. The check she was to send them lay all signed, ready to be inclosed.
"Moms," whispered Roy, using the pet name Rex had invented and pressing one of his mother's hands tightly in his, "you have us. We are growing fast. I am sure we shall get along."
"Bless you, my boy." His mother kissed him on the forehead, then lifted her eyes reverently, as she added: "Yes, and I must not forget that there is One who is always a friend to the needy. And now, children, we must go to bed. To-morrow we will decide what to do."
Roy stopped at Rex's door, went in and found his brother tossing in bed.
"Have you told the girls?" he asked.
"How did they take it?"
"Better than I expected they would."
"But what are we going to do, Roy?" Rex went on. "We can't stay here."
"No, of course not."
"But what will people say? Won't there be a terrible scandal?"
"You mustn't talk that way, Rex. Remember that you and I are the ones mother must depend on now. If she sees us looking on the dark side it'll make it so much the harder for her."
"That's it," returned Rex. "Life is something you must go ahead with. You can't lay it down when you get tired. All right; I'll remember what you say, Roy, but it's an awful come down."
Rex, however, "came up to the scratch," as he himself would have expressed it, nobly the next day.
Nobody went to church, and about half past eleven the door bell rang and "Mr. Darley and son" were announced.
Miles, as we shall continue to call him, sent up word to know if he could come up to Rex's room.
"Do you know?" asked Reginald, as he met him in the doorway.
"Yes; Mr. Sydney came around to us this morning. I can't understand it. But I don't want you to feel—"
Miles hesitated. It was very embarrassing for him to express just what he wanted to say. Rex helped him out.
"I'm awfully glad for you, old fellow," he said heartily. "And I don't want you to worry about us. We'll get along some way."
"But that won't do," Miles persisted. "If it hadn't been for you I might have been a common tramp now and never found my father."
"And if it hadn't been for you I would probably have been dead long ago," Rex retorted. "So you see we're quits."
"No, we're not, and I don't want that we should, till I give you what I think you ought to have. Father says I may and—"
"Miles Harding— Darley, I mean, if you do that I'll— I'll never speak to you again. There, take your choice— quits or my friendship."
Rex's pride conquered. Miles was still his slave.
"I'll never say another word about it, Rex," he replied meekly, and for the first time Reginald felt that he could face poverty bravely.
A FISTIC ENCOUNTER
It is summer again, but in Batemans the town in which we now find our friends, the Pells, this banner season of the year, does not deck itself with all the attractions that caused it to be eagerly looked forward to in Marley.
There are no creek, no hills, no trees, nothing but board walks, board houses, board fences, and the "boarders we take," as Rex would conclude the sentence. And these are the same in summer as they are in winter, except that they are all hotter and more unpleasant than ordinary.
Batemans is a far Western town. A friend of Mrs. Pell's was putting up a hotel there at the time of her trouble. He had appealed to her for some woman to run it.
"I don't want a man," he wrote. "There are too many men out here now. I want somebody who will give home comforts which I want to make a speciality of, in place of a bar."
Mrs. Pell considered it a providential opportunity. She replied stating that she would take it herself if she could have her children to help her. And they had gone out there in February.
Mr. Darley had been kindness itself. He not only refused to prosecute Sydney, but wanted to settle a portion of his fortune on the Pells.
"You are fully entitled to this," he said. "It is through you that my boy has been restored to me."
But Mrs. Pell was firm as Rex had been firm.
"It is enough that you allow us the time in which to make our plans," she returned.
Rex never murmured at the prospect of Batemans. Not even when the dreary aspect of the place, with mud two feet deep in its streets, first dawned upon him. He felt that he ought to rejoice rather that his new lot was to be cast so far away from all his old friends.
There were no educational facilities in Batemans; at least none of which the twins could avail themselves. Then they found plenty to do in helping their mother.
Rex acted as clerk, made out the bills and received the guests; Roy saw to the purchasing of supplies, and aided his brother in keeping objectionable characters out of the house.
There were no amusements and no society except that which they furnished themselves in the family circle, Roy often thought if he had had this life to look forward to, his whole previous existence would have been embittered. But now that he was living it, strength seemed given him in some way to bear the burden.
Sydney had gone to England. They asked him to write and let them know how he was getting along, but he would not promise.
Miles wrote regularly to Rex, even when the latter did not reply. He and his father had moved into the handsome home next the Harringtons', with Mrs. Fox as housekeeper.
"I wonder what people think of the thing," Rex said once to Roy.
There had been no publicity about the transfer. Only a few people knew of it and the cause.
On this July day on which we are writing, it was unusually hot. The heat seemed to be frying in the air. It was a day of all others on which to keep quiet and calm.
But this was the day on which the waiters of the Homestead House had chosen to go out on strike for an increase of wages which Mrs. Pell was not empowered to give them. They threw down their aprons just before the dinner hour at one o'clock.
"Never mind, mother," said Roy. "Rex and I will pitch in and help."
And they did, they and Eva and Jess. Rex was just carrying a tray of dishes into the pantry when he heard a louder voice than usual coming from one of the tables.
He looked around. He saw Jess, flushed to her hair, standing behind a young man who had come in with one of the regular guests, and whom he had not noticed before.
"Come now, I'll give you a nice tip if you'll do it for me," Rex heard the fellow say.
He thought he recognized the voice. He put his tray down and hurried to his sister's side.
She had started to walk away, but the man had caught her by the dress and held her fast.
"He wants me to go to the saloon across the street and bring him a bottle of beer," said Jess.
Rex stooped quickly and disengaged the fellow's hand with no gentle touch. In doing so he looked him straight in the face. It was Ashby Stout.
"Great Scott, it's little Pell," exclaimed Stout. Then he added quickly: "Look here, youngster, what right have you to send that girl away from here?"
"A brother's right," replied Rex promptly.
"Whew!" whistled Stout under his breath, and he turned to Driscoll, the friend with whom he had come in. "Say, Sammy," he whispered, "what position does this chap hold in the place?"
"He's the manager's son," was the reply.
Having accomplished his purpose Rex went on, took up his tray and carried it into the pantry. His eyes still flashed from anger.
"Jess," he said, going up to his sister, "you must not go into that dining room again."
"But I'll have to," she replied, "I've got lots of orders to fill."
"Never mind. I'll attend to yours and mine, too. I'm not going to have that ruffian ogling you, I know who he is."
"You do? Who is he?"
"Never mind. It is enough that I know everything bad about him and nothing good. Give me your orders."
And Jess complied. Of course this compelled Rex to wait on Stout. But he gritted his teeth and went through with the process in dignified silence, taking no notice of the attempt Stout made to draw him into conversation.
When dinner was over and Rex was back in his place behind the desk, making up accounts, Stout strolled in, a cigarette between his lips.
He affected to be examining the register for a little while, then suddenly looked up to remark: "I say, Pell, that's a deuced pretty sister of yours."
I won't say that Rex did right, I can't say that he did wrong, but on the instant and without a word he leaned forward and hit J. Ashby Stout a blow on the chin that sent him staggering backward over a chair that stood just behind him.
There happened to be no one else in the office just at that moment. So Mr. Stout was obliged to pick himself up, which he did, muttering wrathfully under his breath, while Rex, very white, went on with his work.
"If you're not a coward, sir, you'll come out here and give me satisfaction for that insult, sir."
So spoke Mr. Stout. Rex closed his books and came out in front of the desk.
"I allow no one to speak of my sister in that tone," he said.
"And I allow no one to strike me," blustered Mr. Stout, launching out a blow directly at Rex's face.
Rex dodged and planted another blow on Mr. Stout's chin. Then they both went at it. Sometimes one was struck, sometimes the other. I am aware that this is contrary to all precedents in story writing. Following out these, J. Ashby Stout should have gone down under the first blow, and then been glad to slink off without risking another encounter with the redoubtable hero.
But then as I think I have remarked once before, Rex is not the hero of this story. He is a boy of very impulsive nature, as often wrong as right in his motives. Perhaps he might have taken a wiser method of standing up for his sister on the present occasion. Be this as it may, he did not regret the black eye he went up to his room to bathe a little while later.
And while the battle did not result in a decisive victory for either side, it was noticeable that Mr. J. Ashby Stout did not again accompany Driscoll to the Homestead. But some one else appeared the next day to whom Rex found it necessary to explain how be came by his battered visage.
MILES BREAKS THE NEWS
A compromise had been effected with the striking waiters, and the heat had lessened a little in its intensity. The two things, together with the nonappearance of Ashby Stout were blessings for which Rex had to be grateful.
But when the stage came in and he recognized among the passengers Miles Darley and the latter's father, he did not know whether he was glad or not. They were links connecting him with that past life which he was trying his best to forget. Now it seemed to him that only by forgetting it and thus doing away with the power of contrast, could he be happy in the present.
"You dear old fellow!" Miles rushed forward with this exclamation and fairly took Rex in his arms.
He had grown much in the past few months and the clothes he wore set off his figure to great advantage.
"I won't say where on earth did you come from," said Rex, "but where in the world are you going to, that you should take in this forsaken place?"
"Well, that's polite, I'm sure," laughed Miles, "Can't you imagine that Batemans may be our objective point?"
"No, because I'm certain you can't be interested in saw mills, and that's the only thing that brings people here."
"But I can be interested in you, can't I, Rex? I've missed you terribly. That great house seems so lonely with only three of us in it."
"But you needn't have stayed there in the summer. There's the White Mountains or the sea coast— lots of places you could have gone to."
"If we choose to come here instead, it's all right, isn't it, Rex?"
"Of course it is, old fellow, and now I see that the best way in which I can entertain you is to tell you right off how I came by this black eye," which Rex proceeded at once to do.
"Good for you, my little game cock!" exclaimed Miles, when he had heard the story. "Speaking of Stout, your friend Harrington has tried to scrape acquaintance with me, but he hasn't got beyond the scraping stage yet. I wonder what Stout was doing out here."
"His father's in the lumber business, I believe. But I'm afraid you'll find it pretty hot, Miles."
"Well, I've had so many cold days in my time I guess I can stand a little heat."
Rex was not the only one of the Pells who was astonished by the advent of the Darleys. Their coming was a complete surprise to the entire family. And a still greater cause of astonishment was the prolongation of their stay.
They rented two of the best rooms in the house, had awnings put up at the windows and wicker furniture sent on from Denver. Mr. Darley took frequent trips to neighboring towns. It was understood by the gossips at Batemans that he was a large Eastern capitalist, looking about for profitable mining investments.
July, August and half of September passed, and still the Darleys remained. Miles was supremely content, for he was with Rex, for whom his admiration appeared to increase with each day's added intimacy. Miles had brought his books, and they studied together some. And in spite of the forlornness of the place, the five young people managed to have a pretty good time.
One afternoon Roy and Rex were washing the omnibus out at the stable. The driver, hearing of a big strike that had been made at a mine some sixty miles away, threw up his position at once and started off to try to get rich at a hand stroke. And the boys were forced to throw themselves into the breach until another man could be obtained in his place.
This is the sort of thing they had trained themselves to expect since coming to Batemans.
"Where's Miles?" asked Roy, as he brought a fresh pail of water and set it down beside his brother.
"He was coming out but his father called him into his room."
"We'll miss them when they go, won't we, Reggie? It has been jolly good fun to have Miles with us all summer. You ought to feel quite proud to think you are a strong enough magnet to keep him here."
"I can't understand it at all, why they should have stayed," returned Rex.
He did not speak very cheerfully. The Darleys were to leave the very next week. It was impossible but that Rex should realize vividly to what they were returning. He did not tell Roy so, but he wished they had not come.
There was only one wheel of the omnibus to finish when Miles came hurrying toward them. There was an expression on his face which neither of the twins could comprehend. It was a blending of fear, joy and stupefaction.
"Here, let me help," he said, as he came up. "I want you fellows to hurry and get through. I've something to tell you."
But they had so nearly finished that there was nothing left for him to undertake.
"What have you got to tell us?" asked Rex, throwing his sponge back into the bucket.
"I wish I knew how you fellows would take it," returned Miles, a flush creeping over his face.
"Try us and find out," rejoined Roy with a smile.
"I'm simply delighted myself," went on the other. "I wonder how I can keep my two feet on the ground. It seems too good to be true."
"Then why are you in doubt how we'll take it," said Rex. "What pleases you ought certainly to please us."
"But perhaps this won't. It's so— so, unexpected and altogether jolly."
"Well, Miles Darley, you are certainly the most incomprehensible fellow this afternoon," exclaimed Roy. "What's it about?"
"Well, it's about the Pells and the Darleys," explained Miles, the color still surging in his cheeks. "In union there is strength, you know, and— haven't you guessed it yet?"
"No, indeed, we haven't and just you tell us right out what it is without any more fooling," and Rex made a playful dab at his friend with the big sponge.
"All right, here goes then," and Miles drew in his breath. "Your mother has told my father that she will be Mrs. Darley, and that makes us brothers, Rex, don't you see, and we're all going back to Philadelphia together— well, don't you like it?"
Miles checked himself suddenly, for Roy and Rex stood staring at him as if struck dumb, too amazed to allow any expression to appear on their faces.
But it was all true; they were to have another test of fortune, and though its bringing about seemed in some sense to deprive the boys of their mother, they knew that not only was this not so, but that they were to gain a father thereby. "And a brother, too, don't forget that," Miles adds at my side.