Part 2 out of 4
"No room? You don't mean to say that you need the whole house?"
"I mean I cannot afford to have you here. Besides I'm used to being
alone. I prefer it."
"That's complimentary, at any rate. You prefer to be alone rather than
to have me with you?"
"Don't be offended, Benjamin. I've been alone so many years. Besides
you'd feel dull here. You wouldn't like it."
"I'll try it and see. What room are you going to give me?"
"You'd better go away."
"Well, uncle, we'll talk about that to-morrow. You're very considerate
in fearing it will be dull for me, but I've roamed about the world so
much that I shall be glad of a little dullness. So it's all settled. And
now, Uncle Paul, if you don't object I'll take out my pipe and have a
smoke. I always smoke after dinner."
He lit his pipe, and throwing himself back in a chair, began to puff
away leisurely, his uncle surveying him with fear and embarrassment. Why
should his graceless nephew turn up, after so many years, in the form of
this big, broad-shouldered, heavy-bearded stranger, only to annoy him,
and thrust his unwelcome company upon him?
UNCLE AND NEPHEW.
Paul Nichols looked forward with dismay to the prospect of having his
nephew remain with him as a guest. Like all misers, he had a distrust of
every one, and the present appearance of his nephew only confirmed the
impressions he still retained of his earlier bad conduct He had all the
will to turn him out of his house, but Ben was vastly his superior in
size and strength, and he did not dare to attempt it.
"He wants to rob, perhaps to murder me," thought Paul, surveying his big
nephew with a troubled gaze.
His apprehensions were such that he even meditated offering to pay the
intruder's board for a week at the tavern, if he would leave him in
peace by himself. But the reluctance to part with his money finally
prevented such a proposal being made.
In the afternoon the old man stayed around home. He did not dare to
leave it lest Ben should take a fancy to search the house, and come upon
some of his secret hoards, for people were right in reporting that he
hid his money.
At last evening came. With visible discomposure the old man showed Ben
to a room.
"You can sleep there," he said, pointing to a cot bed in the corner of
"All right, uncle. Good-night!"
"Good-night!" said Paul Nichols.
He went out and closed the door behind him. He not only closed it, but
locked it, having secretly hidden the key in his pocket. He chuckled
softly to himself as he went downstairs. His nephew was securely
disposed of for the night, being fastened in his chamber. But if he
expected Ben Haley quietly to submit to this incarceration he was
entirely mistaken in that individual. The latter heard the key turn in
the lock, and comprehended at once his uncle's stratagem. Instead of
being angry, he was amused.
"So my simple-minded uncle thinks he has drawn my teeth, does he? I'll
give him a scare."
He began to jump up and down on the chamber floor in his heavy boots,
which, as the floor was uncarpeted, made a terrible noise, The old man
in the room below, just congratulating himself on his cunning move,
grew pale as he listened. He supposed his nephew to be in a furious
passion, and apprehensions of personal violence disturbed him. Still he
reflected that he would be unable to get out, and in the morning he
could go for the constable. But he was interrupted by a different noise.
Ben had drawn off his boots, and was firing them one after the other at
The noise became so intorable, that Paul was compelled to ascend the
stairs, trembling with fear.
"What's the matter?" he inquired at the door, in a quavering voice.
"Open the door," returned Ben.
His uncle reluctantly inserted the key in the lock and opening it
presented a pale, scared face in the doorway. His nephew, with his coat
stripped off, was sitting on the side of the bed.
"What's the matter?" asked Paul.
"Nothing, only you locked the door by mistake," said Ben, coolly.
"What made you make such a noise?" demanded Paul.
"To call you up. There was no bell in the room, so that was the only way
I had of doing it. What made you lock me in?"
"I didn't think," stammered the old man.
"Just what I supposed. To guard against your making that mistake again,
let me have the key."
"I'd rather keep it, if it's the same to you," said Paul, in alarm.
"But it isn't the same to me. You see, Uncle Paul, you are growing old
and forgetful, and might lock me in again. That would not be pleasant,
you know, especially if the house should catch fire in the night."
"What!" exclaimed Paul, terror-stricken, half suspecting his nephew
contemplated turning incendiary.
"I don't think it will, mind, but it's best to be prepared, so give me
The old man feebly protested, but ended in giving up the key to his
"There, that's all right. Now I'll turn in. Good-night."
"Good-night," responded Paul Nichols, and left the chamber, feeling more
alarmed than ever. He was beginning to be more afraid and more
distrustful of his nephew than ever. What if the latter should light on
some of his various hiding places for money? Why, in that very chamber
he had a hundred dollars in gold hidden behind the plastering. He
groaned in spirit as he thought of it, and determined to tell his nephew
the next morning that he must find another home, as he couldn't and
wouldn't consent to his remaining longer.
But when the morning came he found the task a difficult one to enter
upon. Finally, after breakfast, which consisted of eggs and toast, Ben
Haley having ransacked the premises for eggs, which the old man intended
for the market, Paul said, "Benjamin, you must not be offended, but I
have lived alone for years, and I cannot invite you to stay longer."
"Where shall I go, uncle?" demanded Ben, taking out his pipe coolly, and
"There's a tavern in the village."
"Is there? That won't do me any good."
"You'll be better off there than here. They set a very good table,
"You don't," said Ben, finishing the sentence. "I know that, but then,
uncle, I have two reasons for preferring to stay here. The first is,
that I may enjoy the society of my only living relation; the second is,
that I have not money enough to pay my board at the hotel."
He leaned back, and began to puff leisurely at his pipe, as if this
settled the matter.
"If you have no money, why do you come to me?" demanded Paul, angrily.
"Do you expect me to support you?"
"You wouldn't turn out your sister's son, would you, Uncle Paul?"
"You must earn your own living. I can't support you in idleness."
"You needn't; I'll work for you. Let me see, I'll do the cooking."
"I don't want you here," said the old man, desperately. "Why do you come
to disturb me, after so many years?"
"I'll go away on one condition," said Ben Haley.
"Give me, or lend me--I don't care which--a hundred dollars."
"Do you think I'm made of money?" asked Paul, fear and anger struggling
for the mastery.
"I think you can spare me a hundred dollars."
"Go away! You are a bad man. You were a wild, bad boy, and you are no
"Now, Uncle Paul, I think you're rather too hard upon me. Just consider
that I am your nephew. What will people say if you turn me out of
"I don't care what they say. I can't have you here."
"I'm sorry I can't oblige you by going, Uncle Paul, but I've got a
headache this morning, and don't feel like stirring. Let me stay with
you a day or two, and then I may go."
Vain were all the old man's expostulations. His nephew sat obstinately
smoking, and refused to move.
"Come out to the barn with me while I milk," said Paul, at length, not
daring to leave his nephew by himself.
"Thank you, but I'm well off as I am. I've got a headache, and I'd
rather stay here."
Milking couldn't longer be deferred. But for the stranger's presence it
would have been attended to two hours earlier. Groaning in spirit, and
with many forebodings, Paul went out to the barn, and in due time
returned with his foaming pails. There sat his nephew in the old place,
apparently not having stirred. Possibly he didn't mean mischief after
all, Paul reflected. At any rate, he must leave him again, while he
released the cows from their stalls, and drove them to pasture. He tried
to obtain his nephew's companionship, but in vain.
"I'm not interested in cows, uncle," he said. "I'll be here when you
With a sigh his uncle left the house, only half reassured. That he had
reason for his distrust was proved by Ben Haley's movements. He lighted
a candle, and going down celler, first securing a pickax, struck into
the earthen flooring, and began to work energetically.
"I am sure some of the old man's money is here," he said to himself. "I
must work fast, or he'll catch me at it."
Half an hour later Paul Nichols re-entered the house. He looked for his
nephew, but his seat was vacant. He thought he heard a dull thud in the
cellar beneath. He hurried to the staircase, and tottered down. Ben had
come upon a tin quart-measure partly filled with gold coins, and was
stooping over, transferring them to his pocket.
With a hoarse cry like that of an animal deprived of its young, his
uncle sprang upon him, and fastened his clawlike nails in the face of
his burly nephew.
ROBERT COMES TO THE RESCUE.
The attack was so sudden, and the old man's desperation so reinforced
his feeble strength, that Ben Haley was thrown forward, and the measure
of gold coins fell from his hand. But he quickly recovered himself.
"Let me alone," he said, sternly, forcibly removing his uncle's hands
from his face, but not before the clawlike nails had drawn blood. "Let
me alone, if you know what is best for yourself."
"You're a thief!" screamed Paul. "You shall go to jail for this."
"Shall I?" asked Ben, his face darkening and his tone full of menace.
"Who is going to send me there?"
"I am," answered Paul. "I'll have you arrested."
"Look here, Uncle Paul," said Ben, confining the old man's arms to his
side, "it's time we had a little talk together. You'd better not do as
"You're a thief! The jail is the place for thieves."
"It isn't the place for me, and I'm not going there. Now let us come to
an understanding. You are rich and I am poor."
"Rich!" repeated Paul.
"Yes; at any rate, you have got this farm, and more money hidden away
than you will ever use. I am poor. You can spare me this money here as
well as not."
"It is all I have."
"I know better than that. You have plenty more, but I will be satisfied
with this. Remember, I am your sister's son."
"I don't care if you are," said the old man, doggedly.
"And you owe me some help. You'll never miss it. Now make up your mind
to give me this money, and I'll go away and leave you in peace."
"Never!" exclaimed Paul, struggling hard to free himself.
His uncle repeated the emphatic refusal.
"Then I shall have to put it out of your power to carry out your
He took his uncle up in his strong arms, and moved toward the stairs.
"Are you going to murder me?" asked Paul, in mortal fear.
"You will find out what I am going to do," said Ben, grimly.
He carried his uncle upstairs, and, possessing himself of a clothesline
in one corner of the kitchen, proceeded to tie him hand and foot,
despite his feeble opposition.
"There," said he, when his uncle lay before him utterly helpless, "I
think that disposes of you for a while. Now for the gold."
Leaving him on the floor, he again descended the cellar stairs, and
began to gather up the gold coins, which had been scattered about the
floor at the time of Paul's unexpected attack.
The old man groaned in spirit as he found himself about to be robbed,
and utterly helpless to resist the outrage. But help was near at hand,
though he knew it not. Robert Rushton had thought more than once of his
unknown passenger of the day before, and the particular inquiries he
made concerning Paul Nichols and his money. Ben Haley had impressed him
far from favorably, and the more he called to mind his appearance, the
more he feared that he meditated some dishonest designs upon Paul. So
the next morning, in order to satisfy his mind that all was right, he
rowed across to the same place where he had landed Ben, and fastening
his boat, went up to the farmhouse. He reached it just as Ben, having
secured the old man, had gone back into the cellar to gather up the
Robert looked into the window, and, to his surprise, saw the old farmer
lying bound hand and foot. He quickly leaped in, and asked:
"What is the matter? Who has done this?"
"Hush!" said the old man, "he'll hear you."
"Who do you mean?"
"Where is he?"
"Down cellar. He's tied me here, and is stealing all my gold."
"What shall I do? Can I help you?"
"Cut the ropes first."
Robert drew a jackknife from his pocket, and did as he was bidden.
"Now," said Paul, rising with a sigh of relief from his constrained
position, "while I bolt the cellar door, you go upstairs, and in the
closet of the room over this you will find a gun. It is loaded. Bring it
Robert hurried upstairs, and quickly returned with the weapon.
"Do you know how to fire a gun?" asked Paul.
"Yes," said Robert.
"Then keep it. For I am nervous, and my hand trembles. If he breaks
through the door, fire."
Ben Haley would have been up before this, but it occurred to him to
explore other parts of the cellar, that he might carry away as much
booty as possible. He had rendered himself amenable to the law already,
and he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, so he argued. He was
so busily occupied that he did not hear the noise of Robert's entrance
into the room above, or he would at once have gone upstairs. In
consequence of the delay his uncle and Robert had time to concert
measures for opposing him.
Finally, not succeeding in finding more gold, he pocketed what he had
found, and went up the cellar stairs. He attempted to open the door,
when, to his great surprise, he found that it resisted his efforts.
"What makes the door stick so?" he muttered, not suspecting the true
state of the case. But he was quickly enlightened.
"You can't come up!" exclaimed the old man, in triumph. "I've bolted the
"How did he get free? He must have untied the knots," thought Ben. "Does
the old fool think he is going to keep me down here?"
"Unlock the door," he shouted, in a loud, stern voice, "or it will be
the worse for you."
"Have you got the gold with you?"
"Then go down and leave it where you found it, and I will let you come
"You're a fool," was the reply. "Do you think I am a child? Open the
door, or I will burst it open with my foot."
"You'd better not," said Paul, whose courage had returned with the
presence of Robert and the possession of the gun.
"Why not? What are you going to do about it?" asked Ben, derisively.
"I've got help. You have more than one to contend with."
"I wonder if he has any one with him?" thought Ben. "I believe the old
fool is only trying to deceive me. At any rate, help or no help, it is
time I were out of this hole."
"If you don't open the door before I count three," he said, aloud, "I'll
burst it open."
"What shall I do," asked Robert, in a low voice, "if he comes out?"
"If he tries to get away with the gold, fire!" said the old man.
Robert determined only to inflict a wound. The idea of taking a human
life, even under such circumstances, was one that made him shudder. He
felt that gold was not to be set against life.
"One--two--three!" counted Ben, deliberately.
The door remaining locked, he drew back and kicked the door powerfully.
Had he been on even ground, it would have yielded to the blow, but
kicking from the stair beneath, placed him at a disadvantage.
Nevertheless the door shook and trembled beneath the force of the attack
made upon it.
"Well, will you unlock it now?" he demanded, pausing.
"No," said the old man, "not unless you carry back the gold."
"I won't do that. I have had too much trouble to get it. But if you
don't unlock the door at once I may be tempted to forget that you are my
"I should like to forget that you are my nephew," said the old man.
"The old fool has mustered up some courage," thought Ben. "I'll soon
have him whining for mercy."
He made a fresh attack upon the door. This time he did not desist until
he had broken through the panel. Then with the whole force he could
command he threw himself against the upper part of the door, and it came
crashing into the kitchen. Ben Haley leaped through the opening and
confronted his uncle, who receded in alarm. The sight of the burly form
of his nephew, and his stern and menacing countenance, once more made
Ben Haley looked around him, and his eyes lighted upon Robert Rushton
standing beside the door with the gun in his hand.
He burst into a derisive laugh, and turning to his uncle, said: "So this
is the help you were talking about. He's only a baby. I could twist him
around my finger. Just lay down that gun, boy! It isn't meant for
children like you."
Though he had a weapon in his hand, many boys in Robert's situation
would have been unnerved. He was a mere boy, though strong of his age.
Opposed to him was a tall, strong man, of desperate character, fully
resolved to carry out his dishonest purpose, and not likely to shrink
from violence, to which he was probably only too well accustomed. From
the old man he was not likely to obtain assistance, for already Paul's
courage had begun to dwindle, and he regarded his nephew with a scared
"Lay down that gun, boy!" repeated Ben Haley. "I know you. You're the
boy that rowed me across the river. You can row pretty well, but you're
not quite a match for me even at that."
"This gun makes me even with you," said Robert, returning his look
"Does it? Then all I can say is, that when you lose it you'll be in a
bad pickle. Lay it down instantly."
"Then lay down the gold you have in your pockets," said our hero, still
pointing his gun at Haley.
"Good boy! Brave boy!" said the old man, approvingly.
"Look here, boy," said Haley, in quick, stern tones, "I've had enough of
this nonsense. If you don't put down that gun in double quick time,
you'll repent it. One word--yes or no!"
"No," said Robert, resolutely.
No sooner had he uttered the monosyllable than Haley sprang toward him
with the design of wresting the gun from him. But Robert had his finger
upon the trigger, and fired. The bullet entered the shoulder of the
ruffian, but in the excitement of the moment he only knew that he was
hit, but this incensed him. In spite of the wound he seized the musket
and forcibly wrested it from our hero. He raised it in both hands and
would probably in his blind fury have killed him on the spot, but for
the sudden opening of the outer door, and entrance of a neighboring
farmer, who felt sufficiently intimate to enter without knocking. This
changed Haley's intention. Feeling that the odds were against him, he
sprang through the window, gun in hand, and ran with rapid strides
towards the river.
"What's the matter?" demanded the new arrival, surveying the scene
before him in astonishment.
"He's gone off with my gold," exclaimed Paul Nichols, recovering from
his stupefaction. "Run after him, catch him!"
"Who is it?"
"What, your nephew! I thought he was dead long ago."
"I wish he had been," said Paul, wringing his hands. "He's taken all my
money--I shall die in the poorhouse."
"I can't understand how it all happened," said the neighbor, looking to
Robert for an explanation. "Who fired the gun?"
"I did," said our hero.
"Did you hit him?"
"I think so. I saw blood on his shirt. I must have hit him in the
"Don't stop to talk," said Paul, impatiently. "Go after him and get back
"We can't do much," said the neighbor, evidently not very anxious to
come into conflict with such a bold ruffian. "He has the gun with him."
"What made you let him have it?" asked Paul.
"I couldn't help it," said Robert. "But he can't fire it. It is
unloaded, and I don't think he has any ammunition with him."
"To be sure," said Paul, eagerly. "You see there's no danger. Go after
him, both of you, He can't hurt ye."
Somewhat reassured the neighbor followed Robert, who at once started in
pursuit of the escaped burglar. He was still in sight, though he had
improved the time consumed in the foregoing colloquy, and was already
near the river bank. On he sped, bent on making good his escape with the
money he had dishonestly acquired. One doubt was in his mind. Should he
find a boat? If not, the river would prove an insuperable obstacle, and
he would be compelled to turn and change the direction of his flight.
Looking over his shoulder he saw Robert and the farmer on his track, and
he clutched his gun the more firmly.
"They'd better not touch me," he said to himself. "If I can't fire the
gun I can brain either or both with it."
Thoughts of crossing the stream by swimming occurred to him. A sailor by
profession, he was an expert swimmer, and the river was not wide enough
to daunt him. But his pockets were filled with the gold he had stolen,
and gold is well known to be the heaviest of all the metals. But
nevertheless he could not leave it behind since it was for this he had
incurred his present peril. In this uncertainty he reached the bank of
the river, when to his surprise and joy his eye rested upon Robert's
"The boy's boat!" he exclaimed, in exultation, "by all that's lucky! I
will take the liberty of borrowing it without leave."
He sprang in, and seizing one of the oars, pushed out into the stream,
first drawing up the anchor. When Robert and his companion reached the
shore he was already floating at a safe distance.
"He's got my boat!" exclaimed our hero, in disappointment.
"So he has!" ejaculated the other.
"You're a little too late!" shouted Ben Haley, with a sneer. "Just carry
back my compliments to the old fool yonder and tell him I left in too
great a hurry to give him my note for the gold he kindly lent me. I'll
attend to it when I get ready."
He had hitherto sculled the boat. Now he took the other oar and
commenced rowing. But here the wound, of which he had at first been
scarcely conscious, began to be felt, and the first vigorous stroke
brought a sharp twinge, besides increasing the flow of blood. His
natural ferocity was stimulated by his unpleasant discovery, and he
shook his fist menacingly at Robert, from whom he had received the
"There's a reckoning coming betwixt you and me, young one!" he cried,
"and it'll be a heavy one. Ben Haley don't forget that sort of debt. The
time'll come when he'll pay it back with interest. It mayn't come for
years, but it'll come at last, you may be sure of that."
Finding that he could not row on account of his wound, he rose to his
feet, and sculled the boat across as well as he could with one hand.
"I wish I had another boat," said Robert. "We could soon overtake him."
"Better let him go," said the neighbor. "He was always a bad one, that
Ben Haley. I couldn't begin to tell you all the bad things he did when
he was a boy. He was a regular dare-devil. You must look out for him, or
he'll do you a mischief some time, to pay for that wound."
"He brought it on himself," said Robert "I gave him warning."
He went back to the farmhouse to tell Paul of his nephew's escape. He
was brave and bold, but the malignant glance with which Ben Haley
uttered his menace, gave him a vague sense of discomfort.
In spite of his wounded arm Ben Haley succeeded in propelling the boat
to the opposite shore. The blood was steadily, though slowly, flowing
from his wound, and had already stained his shirt red for a considerable
space. In the excitement of first receiving it he had not felt the pain;
now, however, the wound began to pain him, and, as might be expected,
his feeling of animosity toward our hero was not diminished.
"That cursed boy!" he muttered, between his teeth. "I wish I had had
time to give him one blow--he wouldn't have wanted another. I hope the
wound isn't serious--if it is, I may have paid dear for the gold."
Still, the thought of the gold in his pockets afforded some
satisfaction. He had been penniless; now he was the possessor of--as
near as he could estimate, for he had not had time to count--five
hundred dollars in gold. That was more than he had ever possessed before
at one time, and would enable him to live at ease for a while.
On reaching the shore he was about to leave the boat to its fate, when
he espied a boy standing at a little distance, with a hatchet in his
hand. This gave him an idea.
"Come here, boy," he said.
The boy came forward, and examined the stranger with curiosity.
"Is that your hatchet?" he asked.
"No, sir. It belongs to my father."
"Would you mind selling it to me if I will give you money enough to buy
a new one?"
"This is an old hatchet."
"It will suit me just as well, and I haven't time to buy another. Would
your father sell it?"
"Yes, sir; I guess so."
"Very well. What will a new one cost you?"
The boy named the price.
"Here is the money, and twenty-five cents more to pay you for your
trouble in going to the store."
Tae boy pocketed the money with satisfaction. He was a farmer's son, and
seldom had any money in his possession. He already had twenty-five cents
saved up toward the purchase of a junior ball, and the stranger's
gratuity would just make up the sum necessary to secure it. He was in a
hurry to make the purchase, and, accordingly, no sooner had he received
the money than he started at once for the village store. His departure
was satisfactory to Ben Haley, who now had nothing to prevent his
carrying out his plans.
"I wanted to be revenged on the boy, and now I know how," he said. "I'll
make some trouble for him with this hatchet."
He drew the boat up and fastened it. Then he deliberately proceeded to
cut away at the bottom with his newly-acquired hatchet. He had a strong
arm, and his blows were made more effective by triumphant malice. The
boat he supposed to belong to Robert, and he was determined to spoil it.
He hacked away with such energy that soon there was a large hole in the
bottom of the boat. Not content with inflicting this damage, he cut it
in various other places, until it presented an appearance very different
from the neat, stanch boat of which Will Paine had been so proud. At
length Ben stopped, and contemplated the ruin he had wrought with
"That's the first instalment in my revenge," he said. "I should like to
see my young ferryman's face when he sees his boat again. It'll cost
him more than he'll ever get from my miserly uncle to repair it. It
serves him right for meddling with matters that don't concern him. And
now I must be getting away, for my affectionate uncle will soon be
raising a hue and cry after me if I'm not very much mistaken."
He would like to hare gone at once to obtain medical assistance for his
wound, but to go to the village doctor would be dangerous. He must wait
till he had got out of the town limits, and the farther away the better.
He knew when the train would start, and made his way across the fields
to the station, arriving just in time to catch it. First, however, he
bound a handkerchief round his shoulder to arrest the flow of blood.
When he reached the station, and was purchasing his ticket, the
station-master noticed the blood upon his shirt.
"Are you hurt, sir?" he asked.
"Yes, a little," said Ben Haley.
"How did it happen?" inquired the other, with Yankee inquisitiveness.
"I was out hunting," said Ben, carelessly, "with a friend who wasn't
much used to firearms. In swinging his gun round, it accidentally went
off, and I got shot through the shoulder."
"That's bad," said the station-master, in a tone of sympathy. "You'd
better go round to the doctor's, and have it attended to."
"I would," said Ben, "but I am called away by business of the greatest
importance. I can get along for a few hours, and then I'll have a doctor
look at it. How soon will the train be here?"
"It's coming now. Don't you hear it?"
"That's the train I must take. You see I couldn't wait long enough for
the doctor," added Ben, anxious to account satisfactorily for his
inattention to the medical assistance of which he stood in need.
When he was fairly on board the cars, and the train was under way, he
felt considerably relieved. He was speeding fast away from the man he
had robbed, and who was interested in his capture, and in a few days he
might be at sea, able to snap his fingers at his miserly uncle and the
boy whom he determined some day to meet and settle scores with.
From one enemy of Robert the transition is brief and natural to another.
At this very moment Halbert Davis was sauntering idly and discontentedly
through the streets of the village. He was the son of a rich man, or of
one whom most persons, his own family included, supposed to be rich; but
this consciousness, though it made him proud, by no means made him
happy. He had that morning at the breakfast table asked his father to
give him a boat like Will Paine's, but Mr. Davis had answered by a
"You don't need any boat," he said, sharply.
"It wouldn't cost very much," pleaded Halbert.
"How much do you suppose?"
"Will Paine told me his father paid fifty dollars for his."
"Why don't you borrow it sometimes?"
"I can't borrow it. Will started a day or two since for boarding
"Better still. I will hire it for you while he is away."
"I thought of it myself," said Halbert, "but just before he went away
Will lent it to the factory boy," sneering as he uttered the last two
"Do you mean Robert Rushton?"
"That's only a boy's arrangement. I will see Mr. Paine, and propose to
pay him for the use of the boat, and I presume he will be willing to
accede to my terms."
"When will you see him?" asked Halbert, hopefully.
"I will try to see him in the course of the day."
It turned out, however, that there was no need of calling on Mr. Paine,
for five minutes later, having some business with Mr. Davis, he rang
the bell, and was ushered into the breakfast-room.
"Excuse my calling early," he said, "but I wished to see you about----"
and here he stated his business, in which my readers will feel no
interest. When that was over, Mr. Davis introduced the subject of the
boat, and made the offer referred to.
"I am sorry to refuse," said Mr. Paine, "but my son, before going away,
passed his promise to Robert Rushton that he should have it during his
"Do you hold yourself bound by such a promise?" inquired Mrs. Davis,
with a disagreeable smile.
"Certainly," said the lawyer, gravely. "Robert is a valued friend of my
son's, and I respect boyish friendship. I remember very well my own
boyhood, and I had some strong friendships at that time."
"I don't see what your son can find to like in Robert Rushton," said
Mrs. Davis, with something of Halbert's manner. "I think him a very
disagreeable and impertinent boy."
Mr. Paine did not admire Mrs. Davis, and was not likely to be influenced
by her prejudices. Without inquiry, therefore, into the cause of her
unfavorable opinion, he said, "I have formed quite a different opinion
of Robert. I am persuaded that you do him injustice."
"He attacked Halbert ferociously the other day," said Mrs. Davis,
determined to impart the information whether asked or not. "He has an
Mr. Paine glanced shrewdly at Halbert, of whose arrogant and quarrelsome
disposition he had heard from his own son, and replied, "I make it a
point not to interfere in boys' quarrels. William speaks very highly of
Robert, and it affords him great satisfaction, I know, to leave the boat
in his charge."
Mrs. Davis saw that there was no use in pursuing the subject, and it
After the lawyer had gone Halbert made his petition anew, but without
satisfactory results. The fact was, Mr. Davis had heard unfavorable
reports from New York the day previous respecting a stock in which he
had an interest, and it was not a favorable moment to prefer a request
involving the outlay of money.
It was this refusal which made Halbert discontented and unhappy. The
factory boy, as he sneeringly called him, could have a boat, while he, a
gentleman's son, was forced to go without one. Of course, he would not
stoop to ask the loan of the boat, however much he wanted it, from a boy
he disliked so much as Robert. He wondered whether Robert were out this
morning. So, unconsciously, his steps led him to the shore of the river,
where he knew the boat was generally kept. He cast his eye toward it,
when what was his surprise to find the object of his desire half full of
water, with a large hole in the bottom and defaced in other respects.
TWO UNSATISFACTORY INTERVIEWS.
Halbert's first emotion was surprise, his second was gratification. His
rival could no longer enjoy the boat which he had envied him. Not only
that, but he would get into trouble with Mr. Paine on account of the
damage which it had received. Being under his care, it was his duty to
keep it in good condition.
"I wonder how it happened?" thought Halbert. "Won't the young beggar be
in a precious scrape when it's found out? Most likely he won't let Mr.
In this thought he judged Robert by himself. Straightway the plan
suggested itself of going to the lawyer himself and informing him of
Robert's delinquency. It would be a very agreeable way of taking revenge
him. The plan so pleased him that he at once directed his steps toward
Mr. Paine's office. On the way he overtook Hester Paine, the young lady
on whose account he was chiefly incensed against Robert. Being as
desirous as ever of standing in the young lady's good graces, he
hurriedly advanced to her side, and lifting his hat with an air of
ceremonious politeness, he said:
Hester Paine was not particularly well pleased with the meeting. She had
been made acquainted by her brother with the quarrel between Halbert and
Robert, and the mean revenge which the former had taken in procuring the
dismissal of the latter from the factory. Having a partiality for
Robert, this was not likely to recommend his enemy in her eyes.
"Good-morning, Mr. Davis," she said, with cool politeness.
"You are very ceremonious this morning, Miss Hester," said Halbert, who
liked well enough to be called "Mr." by others, but not by Hester.
"Am I?" asked Hester, indifferently. "How so?"
"You called me Mr. Davis."
"That's your name, isn't it?"
"I am not called so by my intimate friends."
"No, I suppose not," said Hester, thus disclaiming the title.
Halbert bit his lips. He was not in love, not because he was too young,
but because he was too selfish to be in love with anybody except
himself. But he admired Hester, and the more she slighted him the more
he was determined to force her to like him. He did, however, feel a
little piqued at her behavior, and that influenced his next words.
"Perhaps you'd rather have the factory boy walking beside you," he said,
with not very good judgment, if he wanted to recommend himself to her.
"There are a good many factory boys in town," she said. "I can't tell
unless you tell me whom you mean."
"I mean Robert Rushton."
"Perhaps I might," said Hester.
"He's a low fellow," said Halbert, bitterly.
"No one thinks so but you," retorted Hester, indignantly.
"My father was obliged to dismiss him from the factory."
"I know all about that, and who was the means of having him sent away."
"I suppose you mean me."
"Yes, Halbert Davis, I mean you, and I consider it a very mean thing to
do," said Hester, her cheeks flushed with the indignation she felt.
"He attacked me like the low ruffian that he is," pleaded Halbert, in
extenuation. "If he hadn't insulted me, he wouldn't have got into
"You struck him first, you know you did. My brother told me all about
it. You were angry because he walked home with me. I would rather go
home alone any time than have your escort."
"You're very polite, Miss Hester," said Halbert, angrily. "I can tell
you some news about your favorite."
"If it's anything bad, I won't believe it."
"You'll have to believe it."
"Well, what is it?" demanded Hester, who was not altogether unlike girls
in general, and so felt curious to learn what it was that Halbert had to
"Your brother was foolish enough to leave his boat in Rushton's care."
"That is no news. Will was very glad to do Robert a favor."
"He'll be sorry enough now."
"Why will he?"
"Because the boat is completely ruined."
"I don't believe it," said Hester, hastily.
"It's true, though. I was down at the river just now, and saw it with my
own eyes. There is a great hole in the bottom, and it is hacked with a
hatchet, so that it wouldn't bring half price."
"Do you know who did it?" asked Hester, with the momentary thought that
Halbert himself might have been tempted by his hatred into the
commission of the outrage.
"No, I don't. It was only accidentally I saw it."
"Was Robert at the boat?"
"Have you asked him about it?"
"No, I have not seen him."
"Then I am sure some enemy has done it. I am sure it is no fault of
"If your brother had let me have the boat, it wouldn't have happened. I
offered him a fair price for its use."
"He won't be sorry he refused, whatever has happened. But I must bid you
good-morning, Mr. Davis," and the young lady, who was now at her own
gate, opened it, and entered.
"She might have been polite enough to invite me in," said Halbert, with
chagrin. "I don't see how she can be so taken up with that low fellow."
He waited till Hester had entered the house, and then bent his steps to
Mr. Paine's office, which was a small one-story building in one corner
of the yard.
The lawyer was sitting at a table covered with papers, from which he
looked up as Halbert entered the office.
"Sit down, Halbert," he said. "Any message from your father?"
"No legal business of your own?" he inquired, with a smile.
"No, sir, no legal business."
"Well, if you have any business, you may state it at once, as I am quite
"It is about the boat which your son lent to Robert Rushton."
"I shall not interfere with that arrangement," said the lawyer,
misunderstanding his object. "I told your father that this morning," and
he resumed his writing.
"I did not come to say anything about that. The boat wouldn't be of any
use to me now."
"Why not?" asked the lawyer, detecting something significant in the
"Because," said Halbert, in a tone which he could not divest of the
satisfaction he felt at his rival's misfortune, "the boat's completely
Mr. Paine laid down his pen in genuine surprise.
"Explain yourself," he said.
So Halbert told the story once more, taking good care to make the damage
quite as great as it was.
"That is very strange," said the lawyer, thoughtfully. "I can't conceive
how such damage could have happened to the boat."
"Robert Rushton don't know how to manage a boat."
"You are mistaken. He understands it very well. I am sure the injury
you speak of could not have happened when he was in charge. You say
there was not only a hole in the bottom, but it was otherwise defaced
"Yes, sir, it looked as if it had been hacked by a hatchet."
"Then it is quite clear that Robert could have had nothing to do with
it. It must have been done by some malicious person or persons."
Knowing something of Halbert, Mr. Paine looked hard at him, his
suspicions taking the same direction as his daughter's. But, as we know,
Halbert was entirely innocent, and bore the gaze without confusion.
"I don't see why Robert hasn't been and let me know of this," said Mr.
"He was probably afraid to tell you," said Halbert, with a slight sneer.
"I know him better than that. You can testify," added the lawyer,
significantly, "that he is not deficient in bravery."
"I thought I would come and tell you," said Halbert, coloring a little.
"I thought you would like to know."
"You are very kind to take so much trouble," said Mr. Paine, but there
was neither gratitude nor cordiality in his tone.
Halbert thought it was time to be going, and accordingly got up and
took his leave. As he opened the office door to go out, he found himself
face to face with Robert Rushton, who passed him with a slight nod, and
with an air of trouble entered the presence of his friend's father.
Robert was forced, by Ben Baley's, inking possession of his boat to give
up for the present his design of recrossing the river. He felt bound to
go back and inform Paul of Ben's escape.
"He has carried off my gold," exclaimed Paul, in anguish. "Why didn't
you catch him?"
"He had too much start of us," said Robert's companion. "But even if we
had come up with him, I am afraid he would have proved more than a match
for us. He is a desperate man. How much money did he take away with
"More than five hundred dollars," wailed the old man. "I am completely
"Not quite so bad as that, Mr. Nichols. You have your farm left."
But the old man was not to be comforted. He had become so wedded to his
gold that to lose it was like losing his heart's blood. But was these no
hope of recovery?
"Why don't you go after him?" he exclaimed, suddenly. "Raise the
neighbors. It isn't too late yet."
"He's across the river before this," said Robert.
"Get a boat and go after him."
"I am willing," said our hero, promptly. "Where can we find a boat, Mr.
"There's one about a quarter of a mile down the stream--Stetson's boat."
"Let's go, then."
"Very well, Robert. I've no idea we can do anything, but we will try."
"Go, go. Don't waste a moment," implored the old man, in feverish
Robert and Mr. Dunham started, and were soon rowing across the river in
"Whereabout would he be likely to land?" asked the farmer.
"There's my boat now," said Robert, pointing it out. "He has left it
where I usually keep it."
Quickly they rowed alongside. Then to his great sorrow Robert perceived
the malicious injury which his enemy had wrought.
"Oh, Mr. Dunham, look at that!" he said, struck with grief. "The boat is
"Not so bad as that. It can be mended."
"What will Will Paine say? What will his father say?"
"Then it isn't your boat?"
"No. that is the worst of it. It was lent me by Will Paine, and I
promised to take such good care of it."
"It isn't your fault, Robert?"
"No, I couldn't help it, but still it wouldn't have happened if it had
not been in my charge."
"You can get it repaired, so that it will look almost as well as new."
If Robert had had plenty of money, this suggestion would have comforted
him, but it will be remembered that he was almost penniless, dependent
on the fish he caught for the means of supporting his mother and
himself. Now this resource was cut off. The boat couldn't be used until
it was repaired. He felt morally bound to get it repaired, though he was
guiltless of the damage. But how could he even do this? One thing was
clear--Mr. Paine must at once be informed of the injury suffered by the
boat. Robert shrank from informing him, but he knew it to be his duty,
and he was too brave to put it off.
But first he must try to find some clew to Ben Haley. He had now a
personal interest in bringing to justice the man who had made him so
much trouble. He had scarcely got on shore than the boy who had sold Ben
Haley the hatchet, strolled up.
"Who was that man who came across in your boat?" he asked.
"Did you see him?" asked Robert, eagerly.
"To be sure I did," said Tom Green, with satisfaction. "I sold him my
old hatchet for money enough to buy a new one, and he give me a quarter
besides for my trouble."
"I wish you hadn't done it, Tom," said Robert, gravely. "See what he's
done with it."
Tom Green opened his eyes wide with astonishment.
"What did he do that for?" he asked.
"To be revenged on me. I'll tell you what for another time. Now I want
to find him. Can you tell me where he went?"
"No; I left him here, while I went to the store for a new hatchet."
The old hatchet was found under a clump of bushes. Robert took
possession of it, feeling that he had a right to it, as part
compensation for the mischief it had done.
"We'd better go to the railroad depot, Mr. Dunham," he said. "He'd be
most likely to go there."
"You're right. We'll go."
They walked rapidly to the station, but too late, of course, for the
train. The station-master was standing on the platform, superintending
the removal of a trunk.
"Mr. Cross," said Robert, "I want to find out if a particular man left
by the last train. I'll describe him,"
"Yes," said the station-master, "that's the man I was wondering about.
He had a wound in the shoulder."
"He got that from me," said Robert.
"Sho! you don't say so," returned the station-master, in surprise. "He
said he was out hunting with a friend, and his friend's gun went off
"I don't believe he feels very friendly to me," said Robert, smiling.
"He's stolen five or six hundred dollars in gold from old Paul Nichols."
"It'll about kill the old man, won't it?"
"He feels pretty bad about it. For what place did he buy a ticket?"
"For Cranston; but that ain't no guide. When he gets there, he'll buy a
ticket for further on."
Had there been a telegraph station, Robert would have telegraphed on to
have Ben Haley stopped, but there was none nearer than the next town. He
determined to give information to a justice of the peace, and leave the
matter in his hands. But Justice in a country town is slow, and it may
as well be stated here, before anything was done Ben Haley was out of
danger. But Robert was destined to fall in with him at a future day.
This business attended to, Robert bent his steps to Mr. Paine's office.
This brings us to his meeting with Halbert Davis at the door. He was
slightly surprised at the encounter, but was far from guessing the
object of Halbert's call.
Mr. Paine looked up as he entered, and had no difficulty in guessing his
"What can I do for you, Robert?" he asked, kindly.
"I bring bad news, Mr. Paine," said our hero, boldly plunging into the
subject which had brought him to the office.
"It's about the boat, isn't it?" said the lawyer.
"What, do you know about it?" asked Robert, in surprise.
"Yes; a disinterested friend brought the news."
"The same. He takes a strong interest in your affairs," added the
lawyer, dryly. "Now tell me how it happened."
Robert gave a full explanation, the lawyer occasionally asking a
"It seems, then," he said, "that you incurred this man's enmity by your
defense of Mr. Nichols' money."
"It was incurred in a good cause. I can't blame you, nor will my son. I
will get Mr. Plane, the carpenter, to look at the boat and see what he
can do to repair it."
"Some time I will pay you the cost of the repairs, Mr. Paine. I would
now if I had any money; but you know how I am situated."
"I shall not call upon you to do that," said the lawyer, kindly. "It was
not your fault."
"But the damage would not have happened if Will had not lent the boat to
"That is true; but in undertaking the defense of Mr. Nichols you showed
a pluck and courage which most boys would not have exhibited. I am
interested, like all good citizens, in the prevention of theft, and in
this instance I am willing to assume the cost."
"You are very kind, Mr. Paine. I was afraid you would blame me."
"No, my boy; I am not so unreasonable. It will save me some trouble if
you will yourself see Mr. Plane and obtain from him an estimate of the
probable expense of putting the boat in order."
Robert left the office, feeling quite relieved by the manner in which
his communication had been received. A little way up the road he
overtook Halbert Davis. In fact, Halbert was waiting for him, expressly
to get an opportunity of enjoying his discomfiture at the ruin of the
"Hallo, Rushton!" he said.
"Are you going out in your boat this afternoon?" asked Halbert,
"You know why I can't."
"I wonder what Will Paine will say when he sees the good care you take
"I don't believe he will blame me when he knows the circumstances."
"You ain't fit to have the charge of a boat. I suppose you ran it on a
"Then you suppose wrong."
"You won't be able to go out fishing any more. How will you make a
"Without your help," said Robert, coldly. "You will probably see me out
again in a few days, if you take the trouble to look."
"How can you go?"
"Mr. Paine has asked me to see Mr. Plane about repairing the boat."
"Is he going to pay the expenses?"
"Then he's a fool."
"You'd better not tell him so, or he might give you a lesson in
"You're a low fellow," said Halbert, angrily.
"You are welcome to your opinion," returned Robert, indifferently.
ON THE RAILROAD TRACK.
Robert saw the carpenter, according to Mr. Paine's instructions, but
found him so busy that he would not engage to give his attention to the
boat under a week.
The delay was regretted by our hero, since it cut him off from the
employment by which he hoped to provide for his mother. Again Mrs.
Rushton was in low spirits.
"I am sorry you couldn't agree with Halbert Davis, Robert," she said,
with a sigh. "Then you could have stayed in the factory, and got your
wages regularly every week."
"I know that, mother, but I am not willing to have Halbert 'boss me
round,' even for a place in the factory."
"Then, Robert, you quarreled with the man you took across the river."
"I think I did right, mother," said Robert. "Don't get out of spirits. I
don't expect to succeed always. But I think I shall come out right in
"I am sure I hope so."
Mrs. Rushton was one of those who look on the dark side. She was
distrustful of the future, and apt to anticipate bad fortune. Robert was
very different. He inherited from his father an unusual amount of
courage and self-reliance, and if one avenue was closed to him, he at
once set out to find another. It is of this class that successful men
are made, and we have hopes that Robert will develop into a prosperous
and successful man.
"I am sure I don't see what you can do," said Mrs. Rushton, "and we
can't live on what I make by braiding straw."
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Robert, "I'll go on Sligo Hill and
pick blueberries; I was passing a day or two ago, and saw the bushes
quite covered. Just give me a couple of tin pails, and I'll see what I
The pails were provided, and Robert started on his expedition. The hill
was not very high, nor was its soil very good. The lower part was used
only to pasture a few cows. But this part was thickly covered with
blueberry bushes, which this season were fuller than usual of
large-sized berries. Robert soon settled to work, and picked steadily
and rapidly. At the end of three hours he had filled both pails,
containing, as near as he could estimate, eight quarts.
"That's a pretty good afternoon's work," he said to himself. "Now I
suppose I must turn peddler, and dispose of them,"
He decided to ask ten cents a quart. Later in the season the price would
be reduced, but at that time the berries ought to command that price.
The first house at which he called was Mr. Paine's. He was about to
pass, when he saw Hester at the window. Pride suggested, "She may
despise me for being a berry peddler," but Robert had no false shame.
"At any rate, I won't be coward enough to try to hide it from her."
Accordingly he walked up boldly to the door, and rang the bell.
Hester had seen him from the window, and she answered the bell herself.
"I am glad to see you, Robert," she said, frankly. "Won't you come in?"
"Thank you," said our hero, "but I called on business."
"You will find my father in his office," she said, looking a little
"My business is not of a legal character," he said. "I've turned
peddler, and would like to sell you some blueberries."
"Oh, what nice berries! Where did you pick them?"
"I am sure mother will buy some. Will you wait a minute while I go and
"I will wait as long as you like."
Hester soon returned with authority to buy four quarts. I suspect that
she was the means of influencing so large a purchase.
"They are ten cents a quart," said Robert, "but I don't think I ought to
charge your father anything."
"Because I shall owe him, or rather Will, a good deal of money."
"I know what you mean--it's about the boat."
"Did your father tell you?"
"Yes, but I knew it before. Halbert Davis told me."
"He takes a great interest in my affairs."
"He's a mean boy. You mustn't mind what he says against you."
"I don't care what he thinks or says of me, unless he persuades others
to think ill of me."
"I shall never think ill of you, Robert," said Hester, warmly.
"Thank you, Hester," said Robert, looking up into her glowing face with
more gratification than he could express. "I hope I shall deserve your
"I am sure you will, Robert, But won't you come in?"
"No, thank you. I must sell the rest of my berries."
Robert left the house with forty cents in his pocket, the first fruits
of his afternoon's work. Besides, he had four quarts left, for which he
expected to find a ready sale. He had not gone far when he met Halbert.
The latter was dressed with his usual care, with carefully polished
shoes, neatly fitting gloves, and swinging a light cane, the successor
of that which had been broken in his conflict with Robert. Our hero, on
the other hand, I am obliged to confess, was by no means fashionably
attired. His shoes were dusty, and his bare hands were stained with
berry juice. He wore a coarse straw hat with a broad brim to shield him
from the hot sun. Those of my readers who judge by dress alone would
certainly have preferred Halbert Davis, who looked as if he had just
stepped out of a band-box. But those who compared the two faces, the one
bright, frank and resolute, the other supercilious and insincere, could
hardly fail to prefer Robert in spite of his coarse attire and
Halbert scanned his rival with scornful eyes. He would have taken no
notice of him, but concluded to speak in the hope of saying something
"You have found a new business, I see," he said, with a sneer.
"Yes," said Robert, quietly. "When one business gives out, I try
"You've made a good choice," said Halbert. "It's what you are adapted
"Thank you for the compliment, but I don't expect to stick to it all my
"How do you sell your berries?"
"Ten cents a quart."
"You'd better call on your friend, Miss Hester Paine, and see if she
won't buy some."
"Thank you for the advice, but it comes too late. She bought four quarts
"She did!" returned Halbert, surprised. "I didn't think you'd go there."
"She won't think much of a boy that has to pick berries for a living."
"I don't think that will change her opinion of me. Why should it?"
"It's a low business."
"I don't see it."
"Excuse my delaying you. I am afraid I may have interfered with your
business. I say," he called out, as Robert was going on, "if you will
call at our house, perhaps my mother may patronize you."
"Very well," said Robert, "if I don't sell elsewhere, I'll call there.
It makes no difference to me who buys my berries,"
"He's the proudest beggar I ever met," thought Halbert, looking after
him. "Hester Paine must be hard up for an escort if she walks with a boy
who peddles berries for a living. If I were her father, I would put a
stop to it."
The same evening there was a concert in the Town Hall. A free ticket was
given to Robert in return for some slight service. Mr. Paine and his
daughter were present, and Halbert Davis also. To the disgust of the
latter, Robert actually had the presumption to walk home with Hester.
Hester laughed and chatted gayly, and appeared to be quite unconscious
that she was lowering herself by accepting the escort of a boy "who
picked berries for a living."
The next day Robert again repaired to Sligo. He had realized eighty
cents from his sales the previous day, and he felt that picking berries
was much better than remaining idle. Halbert's sneers did not for a
moment discompose him. He had pride, but it was an honorable pride, and
not of a kind that would prevent his engaging in any respectable
employment necessary for the support of his mother and himself.
Returning home with well-filled pails, he walked a part of the way on
the railroad, as this shortened the distance. He had not walked far when
he discovered on the track a huge rock, large enough to throw the train
off the track. How it got there was a mystery. Just in front there was a
steep descent on either side, the road crossing a valley, so that an
accident would probably cause the entire train to be thrown down the
embankment. Robert saw the danger at a glance, and it flashed upon him
at the same moment that the train was nearly due. He sprang to the rock,
and exerted his utmost strength to dislodge it. He could move it
slightly, but it was too heavy to remove. He was still exerting his
strength to the utmost when the whistle of the locomotive was heard.
Robert was filled with horror, as he realized the peril of the
approaching train, and his powerlessness to avert it.
THE YOUNG CAPITALIST.
The cars swept on at the rate of twenty miles an hour, the engineer
wholly unconscious of the peril in front. Robert saw the fated train
with its freight of human lives, and his heart grew sick within him as
he thought of the terrible tragedy which was about to be enacted. Was
there any possibility of his averting it? He threw himself against the
rock and pushed with all the strength he could command. But, nerved as
he was by desperation, he found the task greater than he could compass.
And still the train came thundering on. He must withdraw to a place of
safety, or he would himself be involved in the destruction which
threatened the train.
There was one thing more he could do, and he did it.
He took his station on the rock which was just in the path of the
advancing train, and waved his handkerchief frantically. It was a
position to test the courage of the bravest.
Robert was fully aware that he was exposing himself to a horrible
death. Should he not be seen by the engineer it would be doubtful
whether he could get out of the way in time to escape death--and that of
the most frightful nature. But unless he did something a hundred lives
perhaps might be lost. So he resolutely took his stand, waving, as we
have said, his handkerchief and shouting, though the last was not likely
to be of any avail.
At first he was not seen. When the engineer at last caught sight of him
it was with a feeling of anger at what he regarded as the foolhardiness
of the boy. He slackened his speed, thinking he would leave his place,
but Robert still maintained his position, his nerves strung to their
highest tension, not alone at his own danger, but at the peril which he
began to fear he could not avert.
Reluctantly the engineer gave the signal to stop the train. He was only
just in time. When it came to a stop there was an interval of only
thirty-five feet between it and Robert Rushton, who, now that he had
accomplished his object, withdrew to one side, a little paler than
usual, but resolute and manly in his bearing.
"What is the meaning of this foolery?" the engineer demanded, angrily.
Robert pointed in silence to the huge rock which lay on the track.
"How came that rock there?" asked the engineer, in a startled tone, as
he took in the extent of the peril from which they had been saved.
"I don't know," said Robert. "I tried to move it, but I couldn't."
"You are a brave boy," said the engineer. "You have in all probability
saved the train from destruction. But you ran a narrow risk yourself."
"I know it," was the reply; "but it was the only thing I could do to
catch your attention."
"I will speak to you about it again. The first to be done is to move the
He left the engine and advanced toward the rock. By this time many of
the passengers had got out, and were inquiring why the train was stopped
at this point. The sight of the rock made a sensation. Though the peril
was over, the thought that the train might have been precipitated down
the embankment, and the majority of the passengers killed or seriously
injured, impressed them not a little. They pressed forward, and several
lending a hand, the rock was ousted from its its position, and rolled
crashing over the bank.
Among the passengers was a stout, good-looking man, a New York merchant.
He had a large family at home waiting his return from a Western
journey. He shuddered as he thought how near he had been to never
meeting them again on earth.
"It was providential, your seeing the rock," he said to the engineer.
"We owe our lives to you."
"You do me more than justice," replied the engineer. "It was not I who
saved the train, but that boy."
All eyes were turned upon Robert, who, unused to being the center of so
many glances, blushed and seemed disposed to withdraw.
"How is that?" inquired the merchant.
"He saw the obstruction, and tried to remove it, but, not being able to
do so, took his station on the rock, and, at the risk of his own life,
drew my attention, and saved the train."
"It was a noble act, my boy; what is your name?"
"It is a name that we shall all have cause to remember. Gentlemen,"
continued the merchant, turning to the group around him, "you see before
you the preserver of your lives. Shall his act go unrewarded?"
"No, no!" was the general exclamation.
"I don't want any reward," said Robert, modestly. "Any boy would have
done as much."
"I don't know about that, my young friend. There are not many boys, or
men, I think, that would have had the courage to act as you did. You may
not ask or want any reward, but we should be forever disgraced if we
failed to acknowledge our great indebtedness to you. I contribute one
hundred dollars as my share of the testimonial to our young friend."
"I follow with fifty!" said his next neighbor, "and shall ask for the
privilege of taking him by the hand."
Robert had won honors at school, but he had never before been in a
position so trying to his modesty. The passengers, following the example
of the last speaker, crowded around him, and took him by the hand,
expressing their individual acknowledgments for the service he had
rendered them. Our hero, whom we now designate thus appropriately, bore
the ordeal with a self-possession which won the favor of all.
While this was going on, the collection was rapidly being made by the
merchant who had proposed it. The amounts contributed varied widely, but
no one refused to give. In ten minutes the fund had reached over six
"Master Robert Rushton," said the merchant, "I have great pleasure in
handing you this money, freely contributed by the passengers on this
train, as a slight acknowledgment of the great service which you have
rendered them at the risk of your own life. It does not often fall to
the lot of a boy to perform a deed so heroic. We are all your debtors,
and if the time ever conies that you need a friend, I for one shall be
glad to show my sense of indebtedness."
"All aboard!" shouted the conductor.
The passengers hurried into the cars, leaving our hero standing by the
track, with one hand full of bank notes and in the other the card of the
New York merchant. It was only about fifteen minutes since Robert had
first signaled the train, yet how in this brief time had his fortunes
changed! From the cars now rapidly receding he looked to the roll of
bills, and he could hardly realize that all this money was his own. He
sat down and counted it over.
"Six hundred and thirty-five dollars!" he exclaimed. "I must have made a
But a second count turned out precisely the same.
"How happy mother will be!" he thought, joyfully. "I must go and tell
her the good news."
He was so occupied with the thoughts of his wonderful good fortune that
he nearly forgot to take the berries which he had picked.
"I shan't need to sell them now," he said. "We'll use a part of them
ourselves, and what we can't use I will give away."
He carefully stored away the money in his coat pocket, and for the sake
of security buttoned it tight. It was a new thing for him to be the
custodian of so much treasure. As Halbert Davis usually spent the latter
part of the afternoon in promenading the streets, sporting his kids and
swinging his jaunty cane, it was not surprising that Robert encountered
"So, you've been berrying again?" he said, stopping short.
"Yes," said Robert, briefly.
"You haven't got the boat repaired, I suppose."
"It's lucky for you this is berrying season."
"Because you'd probably have to go to the poorhouse," said Halbert,
"I don't know about that," said Robert, coolly. "I rather think I could
buy you out, Halbert Davis, watch, gloves, cane and all."
"What do you mean?" demanded Halbert, haughtily. "You seem to forget
that you are a beggar, or next to it."
Robert set down his pails, and, opening his coat, drew out a handful of
"Does that look like going to the almshouse?" he said.
"They're not yours," returned Halbert, considerably astonished, for,
though he did not know the denomination of the bills, it was evident
that there was a considerable amount of money.
"It belongs to me, every dollar of it," returned Robert.
"I don't believe it. Where did you get it? Picking berries, I suppose,"
he added, with a sneer.
"It makes no difference to you where I got it," said our hero, returning
the money to his pocket. "I shan't go to the almshouse till this I is
"He must have stolen it," muttered Halbert, looking after Robert with
disappointment and chagrin. It was certainly very vexatious that, in
spite of all his attempts to humble and ruin our hero, he seemed more
prosperous than ever.
A VISIT TO THE LAWYER.
Mrs. Rushton was braiding straw when Robert entered with his berries.
"Couldn't you sell your berries, Robert?" she asked.
"I haven't tried yet, mother."
"The berrying season won't last much longer," said his mother,
"Don't borrow trouble, mother. I am sure we shall get along well."
"You feel more confidence than I do."
"I just met Halbert Davis in the street."
"Have you made up with him?"
"It is for him to make up with me."
"I am afraid you are too high-spirited, Robert. Did Halbert speak to
"Oh, yes," said Robert, laughing. "He takes a great interest in my
affairs. He predicts that we shall come to the poorhouse yet."
"He may be right."
"Now, mother, don't be so desponding. We've got enough money to pay our
expenses for more than a year, even if we both stop work."
"What can you mean, Robert?" said his mother, looking up in surprise.
"You must be crazy."
"Does that look like going to the poorhouse?" asked Robert, drawing out
Mrs. Rushton uttered an exclamation of surprise.
"Whose money is that, Robert?"
"You haven't done anything wrong?"
"No, mother; I thought you knew me too well for that. I see you are
anxious to hear how I obtained it, so I'll tell you all about it."
He sat down, and in brief words told his mother the story of the train
and its peril, how he had rescued it, and, lastly, of the generous gift
which he had so unexpectedly received. The mother's heart was touched,
and she forgot all her forebodings.
"My son, I am proud of you," she said, her eyes moist. "You have done a
noble deed, and you deserve the reward. But what a risk you ran!"
"I know it, mother, but we won't think of that, now that it is over. How
much, money do you think I have here?"
"Two or three hundred dollars."
"Six hundred and thirty-five! So you see, mother, we needn't go to the
poorhouse just yet. Now, how much better off should I have been if I had
kept my place in the factory? It would have taken me more than two years
to earn as much money as this. But that isn't all. I have been the means
of saving a great many lives, for the train was sure to be thrown down
the embankment. I shall remember that all my life."
"We have reason to be grateful to Heaven that you have been the means of
doing so much good, Robert, while, at the same time, you have benefited
"That is true, mother."
"I shall be afraid to have so much money in the house. If it were known,
we might be robbed."
"I will leave it with Mr. Paine until I get a chance to put it in a
savings bank. He has a safe in his office. At the same time I will carry
him some berries as a present. It won't be much, but I should like to do
it on account of his kindness about the boat. I will offer now to bear
the expense of its repair."
After washing his hands and adjusting his clothes a little, for Robert,
though no fop like Halbert, was not regardless of appearances,
especially as he thought Hester might see him, he set out for the
"Excuse my bringing in my berries," said Robert, as he entered the
office, "but I want to ask your acceptance of them."
Many persons, under the supposition that Robert was too poor to afford a
gift, would have declined it, or offered to pay for it, thinking they
were acting kindly and considerately. But Mr. Paine knew that Robert
would be mortified by such an offer, and he answered:
"Thank you, Robert; I will accept your gift with thanks on one
"What is it, Mr. Paine?" inquired our hero, a little puzzled.
"That you will take tea with us to-morrow evening, and help us do
justice to them."
"Thank you," said Robert, not a little pleased at the invitation, "but I
shouldn't like to leave my mother at home alone."
"Oh, we must have your mother, too. Hester will call this evening, and
"Then," said Robert, "I can answer for myself, and I think for her, that
we should both be very happy to come."
The lawyer's social position made such an invitation particularly
gratifying to Robert. Besides, he was led to value it more on account of
the persistent efforts of Halbert to injure him in the general
estimation. Then, too, it was pleasant to think that he was to sit down
to the same table with Hester, as her father's guest, and to receive a
call from her at his own house. Nothing that Mr. Paine could have done
would have afforded him an equal amount of gratification,
"There is one other matter I wanted to speak to you about, Mr. Paine,"
he said. "Will you take care of some money for me until I get a chance
to deposit it in the savings bank?"
"Certainly, Robert," was the reply, but the lawyer's manner showed some
surprise. He knew the circumstances of the Rushtons, and he had not
supposed they had any money on hand. "How much is it?"
"Six hundred and thirty-five dollars," answered Robert, producing it.
"Will you count it, and see if it is all right?"
"Is this your money?" asked the lawyer, laying down his pen and gazing
at Robert in astonishment.
"Yes, sir," said Robert, enjoying his surprise. "I will tell you how I
So the story was told, with a modest reserve as to his own courage, but
still showing, without his intending it, how nobly he had behaved.
"Give me your hand, Robert," said Mr. Paine, cordially. "You have shown
yourself a hero. We shall be proud of your company to tea to-morrow
Robert flushed with gratification at the high compliment conveyed in
What did he care then for Halbert Davis and his petty malice! He had the
approval of his own conscience, the good opinion of those whom he most
respected and a provision against want sufficient to avert all present
"There is one thing more, Mr. Paine," he added. "It's about the boat
Will was kind enough to lend me."
"Have you seen the carpenter about repairing it?"
"Yes, sir, and he will attend to it as soon as he can spare the time.
But that was not what I wanted to say. I think I ought to bear the
expense of repairing it. I would have spoken about it at first, but then
I had no money, and didn't know when I should have any. Will you be kind
enough to take as much of my money as will be needed to pay Mr. Plane's
bill when it comes in?"
"Certainly not, Robert. It was not your fault that the boat was
"It wouldn't have happened if I had not borrowed it. It isn't right that
the expense should fall on you."
"Don't trouble yourself about that, Robert. I am able and willing to pay
it. It is very honorable in you to make the offer, and I like you the
better for having made it. Won't you need any of this money for present
"Perhaps I had better take the thirty-five dollars. Mother may be in
want of something."
Robert received back the sum named, and returned home, much pleased with
About seven o'clock, sitting at the window of the little cottage, he saw
Hester Paine opening the front gate. He sprang to his feet and opened
"Good-evening, Robert," she said. "Is your mother at home?"
"Yes, Hester. Won't you come in?"
"Thank you, Robert. Father has been telling me what a hero you were, and
it made me feel proud that you were a friend of mine."
Robert's face lighted with pleasure.
"You compliment me more than I deserve," he answered, modestly; "but it
gives me great pleasure to know that you think well of me."
"I am sure that there is no boy in Millville that would have dared to do
such a thing. Good-evening, Mrs. Rushton. Are you not proud of your
"He is a good son to me," said Mrs. Rushton, with a glance of affection.
"It is such a splendid thing he did. He will be quite a hero. Indeed, he
is one already. I've got a New York paper giving an account of the
whole thing. I brought it over, thinking you might like to read it."
She displayed a copy of a great city daily, in which full justice was
done to Robert's bravery. Our hero listened with modest pleasure while
it was being read.
"I don't deserve all that," he said.
"You must let us judge of that," said Hester. "But I have come this
evening, Mrs. Rushton, to ask you to take tea with us to-morrow evening,
you and Robert. You will come, won't you?"
Mrs. Rushton was pleased with this mark of attention, and after a slight
I do not intend to give an account of the next evening, and how Robert,
in particular, enjoyed it. That can be imagined, as well as Halbert's
chagrin when he heard of the attention his rival was receiving in a
quarter where he himself so earnestly desired to stand well. I must pass
on to a communication received by Mrs. Rushton, a communication of a
very unexpected character, which had an important effect upon the
fortunes of our hero.
THE MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.
It was not often that Mrs. Rushton received a letter. Neither she nor
her husband had possessed many relatives, and such as either had were
occupied with their own families, and little communication passed
between them and Captain Rushton's family. Robert, therefore, seldom
called at the post office. One day, however, as he stepped in by a
neighbor's request to inquire for letters for the latter, the postmaster
said, "There's a letter for your mother, Robert."
"Is there?" said our hero, surprised, "When did it come?"
"Yesterday. I was going to ask some one to carry it round to her, as you
don't often call here."