Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Risen from the Ranks by Horatio Alger, Jr.

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

close-fisted. All her establishment was carried on with due regard
to economy, and though her income in the eyes of a city man would be
counted small, she saved half of it every year, thus increasing her
accumulations.

As she sat placidly knitting, an interruption came in the shape of a
knock at the front door.

"I'll go myself," she said, rising, and laying down the stocking.
"Hannah's out in the back room, and won't hear. I hope it aint Mrs.
Smith, come to borrow some butter. She aint returned that last
half-pound she borrowed. She seems to think her neighbors have got
to support her."

These thoughts were in her mind as she opened the door. But no Mrs.
Smith presented her figure to the old lady's gaze. She saw instead,
with considerable surprise, a stylish young man with a book under his
arm. She jumped to the conclusion that he was a book-pedler, having
been annoyed by several persistent specimens of that class of
travelling merchants.

"If you've got books to sell," she said, opening the attack, "you may
as well go away. I aint got no money to throw away."

Mr. Ferdinand B. Kensington--for he was the young man in
question--laughed heartily, while the old lady stared at him half
amazed, half angry.

"I don't see what there is to laugh at," said she, offended.

"I was laughing at the idea of my being taken for a book-pedler."

"Well, aint you one?" she retorted. "If you aint, what be you?"

"Aunt Deborah, don't you know me?" asked the young man, familiarly.

"Who are you that calls me aunt?" demanded the old lady, puzzled.

"I'm your brother Henry's son. My name is Ferdinand."

"You don't say so!" ejaculated the old lady. "Why, I'd never 'ave
thought it. I aint seen you since you was a little boy."

"This don't look as if I was a little boy, aunt," said the young man,
touching his luxuriant whiskers.

"How time passes, I do declare!" said Deborah. "Well, come in, and
we'll talk over old times. Where did you come from?"

"From the city of New York. That's where I've been living for some
time."

"You don't say! Well, what brings you this way?"

"To see you, Aunt Deborah. It's so long since I've seen you that I
thought I'd like to come."

"I'm glad to see you, Ferdinand," said the old lady, flattered by
such a degree of dutiful attention from a fine-looking young man.
"So your poor father's dead?"

"Yes, aunt, he's been dead three years."

"I suppose he didn't leave much. He wasn't very forehanded."

"No, aunt; he left next to nothing."

"Well, it didn't matter much, seein' as you was the only child, and
big enough to take care of yourself."

"Still, aunt, it would have been comfortable if he had left me a few
thousand dollars."

"Aint you doin' well? You look as if you was," said Deborah,
surveying critically her nephew's good clothes.

"Well, I've been earning a fair salary, but it's very expensive
living in a great city like New York."

"Humph! that's accordin' as you manage. If you live snug, you can
get along there cheap as well as anywhere, I reckon. What was you
doin'?"

"I was a salesman for A. T. Stewart, our leading dry-goods merchant."

"What pay did you get?"

"A thousand dollars a year."

"Why, that's a fine salary. You'd ought to save up a good deal."

"You don't realize how much it costs to live in New York, aunt. Of
course, if I lived here, I could live on half the sum, but I have to
pay high prices for everything in New York."

"You don't need to spend such a sight on dress," said Deborah,
disapprovingly.

"I beg your pardon, Aunt Deborah; that's where you are mistaken. The
store-keepers in New York expect you to dress tip-top and look
genteel, so as to do credit to them. If it hadn't been for that, I
shouldn't have spent half so much for dress. Then, board's very
expensive."

"You can get boarded here for two dollars and a half a week," said
Aunt Deborah.

"Two dollars and a half! Why, I never paid less than eight dollars a
week in the city, and you can only get poor board for that."

"The boarding-houses must make a great deal of money," said Deborah.
"If I was younger, I'd maybe go to New York, and keep one myself."

"You're rich, aunt. You don't need to do that."

"Who told you I was rich?" said the old lady, quickly.

"Why, you've only got yourself to take care of, and you own this
farm, don't you?"

"Yes, but farmin' don't pay much."

"I always heard you were pretty comfortable."

"So I am," said the old lady, "and maybe I save something; but my
income aint as great as yours."

"You have only yourself to look after, and it is cheap living in
Centreville."

"I don't fling money away. I don't spend quarter as much as you on
dress."

Looking at the old lady'a faded bombazine dress, Ferdinand was very
ready to believe this.

"You don't have to dress here, I suppose," he answered. "But, aunt,
we won't talk about money matters just yet. It was funny you took me
for a book-pedler."

"It was that book you had, that made me think so."

"It's a book I brought as a present to you, Aunt Deborah."

"You don't say!" said the old lady, gratified. "What is it? Let me
look at it."

"It's a copy of 'Pilgrim's Progress,' illustrated. I knew you
wouldn't like the trashy books they write nowadays, so I brought you
this."

"Really, Ferdinand, you're very considerate," said Aunt Deborah,
turning over the leaves with manifest pleasure. "It's a good book,
and I shall be glad to have it. Where are you stoppin'?"

"At the hotel in the village."

"You must come and stay here. You can get 'em to send round your
things any time."

"Thank you, aunt, I shall be delighted to do so. It seems so
pleasant to see you again after so many years. You don't look any
older than when I saw you last."

Miss Deborah knew very well that she did look older, but still she
was pleased by the compliment. Is there any one who does not like to
receive the same assurance?

"I'm afraid your eyes aint very sharp, Ferdinand," she said. "I feel
I'm gettin' old. Why, I'm sixty-one, come October."

"Are you? I shouldn't call you over fifty, from your looks, aunt.
Really I shouldn't."

"I'm afraid you tell fibs sometimes," said Aunt Deborah, but she said
it very graciously, and surveyed her nephew very kindly. "Heigh ho!
it's a good while since your poor father and I were children
together, and went to the school-house on the hill. Now he's gone,
and I'm left alone."

"Not alone, aunt. If he is dead, you have got a nephew."

"Well, Ferdinand, I'm glad to see you, and I shall be glad to have
you pay me a good long visit. But how can you be away from your
place so long? Did Mr. Stewart give you a vacation?"

"No, aunt; I left him."

"For good?"

"Yes."

"Left a place where you was gettin' a thousand dollars a year!" said
the old lady in accents of strong disapproval.

"Yes, aunt."

"Then I think you was very foolish," said Deborah with emphasis.

"Perhaps you won't, when you know why I left it."

"Why did you?"

"Because I could do better."

"Better than a thousand dollars a year!" said Deborah with surprise.

"Yes, I am offered two thousand dollars in San Francisco."

"You don't say!" ejaculated Deborah, letting her stocking drop in
sheer amazement.

"Yes, I do. It's a positive fact."

"You must be a smart clerk!"

"Well, it isn't for me to say," said Ferdinand, laughing.

"When be you goin' out?"

"In a week, but I thought I must come and bid you good-by first."

"I'm real glad to see you, Ferdinand," said Aunt Deborah, the more
warmly because she considered him so prosperous that she would have
no call to help him. But here she was destined to find herself
mistaken.

CHAPTER XVIII.

AUNT AND NEPHEW.

"I don't think I can come here till to-morrow, Aunt Deborah," said
Ferdinand, a little later. "I'll stay at the hotel to-night, and
come round with my baggage in the morning."

"Very well, nephew, but now you're here, you must stay to tea."

"Thank you, aunt, I will."

"I little thought this mornin', I should have Henry's son to tea,"
said Aunt Deborah, half to herself. "You don't look any like him,
Ferdinand."

"No, I don't think I do."

"It's curis too, for you was his very picter when you was a boy."

"I've changed a good deal since then, Aunt Deborah," said her nephew,
a little uneasily.

"So you have, to be sure. Now there's your hair used to be almost
black, now it's brown. Really I can't account for it," and Aunt
Deborah surveyed the young man over her spectacles.

"You've got a good memory, aunt," said Ferdinand with a forced laugh.

"Now ef your hair had grown darker, I shouldn't have wondered,"
pursued Aunt Deborah; "but it aint often black turns to brown."

"That's so, aunt, but I can explain it," said Ferdinand, after a
slight pause.

"How was it?"

"You know the French barbers can change your hair to any shade you
want."

"Can they?"

"Yes, to be sure. Now--don't laugh at me, aunt--a young lady I used
to like didn't fancy dark hair, so I went to a French barber, and he
changed the color for me in three months."

"You don't say!"

"Fact, aunt; but he made me pay him well too."

"How much did you give him?"

"Fifty dollars, aunt."

"That's what I call wasteful," said Aunt Deborah, disapprovingly.

"Couldn't you be satisfied with the nat'ral color of your hair? To
my mind black's handsomer than brown."

"You're right, aunt. I wouldn't have done it if it hadn't been for
Miss Percival."

"Are you engaged to her?"

"No, Aunt Deborah. The fact was, I found she wasn't domestic, and
didn't know anything about keeping house, but only cared for dress,
so I drew off, and she's married to somebody else now."

"I'm glad to hear it," said Deborah, emphatically. "The jade! She
wouldn't have been a proper wife for you. You want some good girl
that's willin' to go into the kitchen, and look after things, and not
carry all she's worth on her back."

"I agree with you, aunt," said Ferdinand, who thought it politic, in
view of the request he meant to make by and by, to agree with hie
aunt in her views of what a wife should be.

Aunt Deborah began to regard her nephew as quite a sensible young
man, and to look upon him with complacency.

"I wish, Ferdinand," she said, "you liked farmin'."

"Why, aunt?"

"You could stay here, and manage my farm for me."

"Heaven forbid!" thought the young man with a shudder. "I should be
bored to death. Does the old lady think I would put on a frock and
overalls, and go out and plough, or hoe potatoes?"

"It's a good, healthy business," pursued Aunt Deborah, unconscious of
the thoughts which were passing through her nephew's mind, "and you
wouldn't have to spend much for dress. Then I'm gittin' old, and
though I don't want to make no promises, I'd very likely will it to
you, ef I was satisfied with the way you managed."

"You're very kind, aunt," said Ferdinand, "but I'm afraid I wasn't
cut out for farming. You know I never lived in the country."

"Why, yes, you did," said the old lady. "You was born in the
country, and lived there till you was ten years old."

"To be sure," said Ferdinand, hastily, "but I was too young then to
take notice of farming. What does a boy of ten know of such things?"

"To be sure. You're right there."

"The fact is, Aunt Deborah, some men are born to be farmers, and some
are born to be traders. Now, I've got a talent for trading. That's
the reason I've got such a good offer from San Francisco."

"How did you get it? Did you know the man?"

"He used to be in business in New York. He was the first man I
worked for, and he knew what I was. San Francisco is full of money,
and traders make more than they do here. That's the reason he can
afford to offer me so large a salary."

"When did he send for you?"

"I got the letter last week."

"Have you got it with you?"

"No, aunt; I may have it at the hotel," said the young man,
hesitating, "but I am not certain."

"Well, it's a good offer. There isn't nobody in Centreville gets so
large a salary."

"No, I suppose not. They don't need it, as it is cheap living here."

"I hope when you get out there, Ferdinand, you'll save up money.
You'd ought to save two-thirds of your pay."

"I will try to, aunt."

"You'll be wantin' to get married bimeby, and then it'll be
convenient to have some money to begin with."

"To be sure, aunt. I see you know how to manage."

"I was always considered a good manager," said Deborah, complacently.
"Ef your poor father had had _my_ faculty, he wouldn't have died as
poor as he did, I can tell you."

"What a conceited old woman she is, with her faculty!" thought
Ferdinand, but what he said was quite different.

"I wish he had had, aunt. It would have been better for me."

"Well, you ought to get along, with your prospects."

"Little the old woman knows what my real prospects are!" thought the
young man.

"Of course I ought," he said.

"Excuse me a few minutes, nephew," said Aunt Deborah, gathering up
her knitting and rising from her chair. "I must go out and see about
tea. Maybe you'd like to read that nice book you brought."

"No, I thank you, aunt. I think I'll take a little walk round your
place, if you'll allow me."

"Sartin, Ferdinand. Only come back in half an hour; tea'll be ready
then."

"Yea, aunt, I'll remember."

So while Deborah was in the kitchen, Ferdinand took a walk in the
fields, laughing to himself from time to time, as if something amused
him.

He returned in due time, and sat down to supper Aunt Deborah had
provided her best, and, though the dishes were plain, they were quite
palatable.

When supper was over, the young man said,--

"Now, aunt, I think I will be getting back to the hotel."

"You'll come over in the morning, Ferdinand, and fetch your trunk?"

"Yes, aunt. Good-night."

"Good-night."

"Well," thought the young man, as he tramped back to the hotel.
"I've opened the campaign, and made, I believe, a favorable
impression. But what a pack of lies I have had to tell, to be sure!
The old lady came near catching me once or twice, particularly about
the color of my hair. It was a lucky thought, that about the French
barber. It deceived the poor old soul. I don't think she could ever
have been very handsome. If she was she must have changed fearfully."

In the evening, John Clapp and Luke Harrison came round to the hotel
to see him.

"Have you been to see your aunt?" asked Clapp.

"Yes, I took tea there."

"Have a good time?"

"Oh, I played the dutiful nephew to perfection. The old lady thinks
a sight of me."

"How did you do it?"

"I agreed with all she said, told her how young she looked, and
humbugged her generally."

Clapp laughed.

"The best part of the joke is--will you promise to keep dark?"

"Of course."

"Don't breathe it to a living soul, you two fellows. _She isn't my
aunt of all_!"

"Isn't your aunt?"

"No, her true nephew is in New York--I know him.--but I know enough
of family matters to gull the old lady, and, I hope, raise a few
hundred dollars out of her."

This was a joke which Luke and Clapp could appreciate, and they
laughed heartily at the deception which was being practised on simple
Aunt Deborah, particularly when Ferdinand explained how he got over
the difficulty of having different colored hair from the real owner
of the name he assumed.

"We must have a drink on that," said Luke. "Walk up, gentlemen."

"I'm agreeable," said Ferdinand.

"And I," said Clapp. "Never refuse a good offer, say I."

Poor Aunt Deborah! She little dreamed that she was the dupe of a
designing adventurer who bore no relationship to her.

CHAPTER XIX.

THE ROMANCE OF A RING.

Ferdinand B. Kensington, as he called himself, removed the next
morning to the house of Aunt Deborah. The latter received him very
cordially, partly because it was a pleasant relief to her solitude to
have a lively and active young man in the house, partly because she
was not forced to look upon him as a poor relation in need of
pecuniary assistance. She even felt considerable respect for the
prospective recipient of an income of two thousand dollars, which in
her eyes was a magnificent salary.

Ferdinand, on his part, spared no pains to make himself agreeable to
the old lady, whom he had a mercenary object in pleasing. Finding
that she was curious to hear about the great city, which to her was
as unknown as London or Paris, be gratified her by long accounts,
chiefly of as imaginative character, to which she listened greedily.
These included some personal adventures, in all of which he figured
very creditably.

Here is a specimen.

"By the way, Aunt Deborah," he said, casually, "have you noticed this
ring on my middle finger?"

"No, I didn't notice it before, Ferdinand. It's very handsome."

"I should think it ought to be, Aunt Deborah," said the young man.

"Why?"

"It cost enough to be handsome."

"How much did it cost?" asked the old lady, not without curiosity.

"Guess."

"I aint no judge of such things; I've only got this plain gold ring.
Yours has got some sort of a stone in it."

"That stone is a diamond, Aunt Deborah!"

"You don't say so! Let me look at it. It aint got no color. Looks
like glass."

"It's very expensive, though. How much do you think it cost?"

"Well, maybe five dollars."

"Five dollars!" ejaculated the young man. "Why, what can you be
thinking of, Aunt Deborah?"

"I shouldn't have guessed so much," said the old lady,
misunderstanding him, "only you said it was expensive."

"So it is. Five dollars would be nothing at all."

"You don't say it cost more?"

"A great deal more."

"Did it cost ten dollars?"

"More."

"Fifteen?"

"I see, aunt, you have no idea of the cost of diamond rings! You may
believe me or not, but that ring cost six hundred and fifty dollars."

"What!" almost screamed Aunt Deborah, letting fall her knitting in
her surprise.

"It's true."

"Six hundred and fifty dollars for a little piece of gold and glass!"
ejaculated the old lady.

"Diamond, aunt, not glass."

"Well, it don't look a bit better'n glass, and I do say," proceeded
Deborah, with energy, "that it's a sin and a shame to pay so much
money for a ring. Why, it was more than half your year's salary,
Ferdinand."

"I agree with you, aunt; it would have been very foolish and wrong
for a young man on a small salary like mine to buy so expensive a
ring as this. I hope, Aunt Deborah, I have inherited too much of
your good sense to do that."

"Then where did you get it?" asked the old lady, moderating her tone.

"It was given to me."

"Given to you! Who would give you such a costly present?"

"A rich man whose life I once saved, Aunt Deborah."

"You don't say so, Ferdinand!" said Aunt Deborah, interested. "Tell
me all about it."

"So I will, aunt, though I don't often speak of it," said Ferdinand,
modestly. "It seems like boasting, you know, and I never like to do
that. But this is the way it happened.

"Now for a good tough lie!" said Ferdinand to himself, as the old
lady suspended her work, and bent forward with eager attention.

"You know, of course, that New York and Brooklyn are on opposite
sides of the river, and that people have to go across in ferry-boats."

"Yes, I've heard that, Ferdinand."

"I'm glad of that, because now you'll know that my story is correct.
Well, one summer I boarded over in Brooklyn--on the Heights--and used
to cross the ferry morning and night. It was the Wall street ferry,
and a great many bankers and rich merchants used to cross daily also.
One of these was a Mr. Clayton, a wholesale dry-goods merchant,
immensely rich, whom I knew by sight, though I had never spoken to
him. It was one Thursday morning--I remember even the day of the
week--when the boat was unusually full. Mr. Clayton was leaning
against the side-railing talking to a friend, when all at once the
railing gave way, and he fell backward into the water, which
immediately swallowed him up."

"Merciful man!" ejaculated Aunt Deborah, intensely interested. "Go
on, Ferdinand."

"Of course there was a scene of confusion and excitement," continued
Ferdinand, dramatically. 'Man overboard! Who will save him?' said
more than one. 'I will,' I exclaimed, and in an instant I had sprang
over the railing into the boiling current."

"Weren't you frightened to death?" asked the old lady. "Could you
swim?"

"Of course I could. More than once I have swum all the way from New
York to Brooklyn. I caught Mr. Clayton by the collar, as he was
sinking for the third time, and shouted to a boatman near by to come
to my help. Well, there isn't much more to tell. We were taken on
board the boat, and rowed to shore. Mr. Clayton recovered his senses
so far as to realize that I had saved his life.

"'What is your name, young man?' he asked, grasping my hand.

"'Ferdinand B. Kensington,' I answered modestly.

"'You have saved my life,' he said warmly.

"'I am very glad of it,' said I.

"'You have shown wonderful bravery."

"'Oh no,' I answered. 'I know how to swim, and I wasn't going to see
you drown before my eyes.'

"'I shall never cease to be grateful to you.'

"'Oh, don't think of it,' said I.

"'But I must think of it,' he answered. 'But for you I should now be
a senseless corpse lying in the bottom of the river,' and he
shuddered.

"'Mr. Clayton,' said I, 'let me advise you to get home as soon as
possible, or you will catch your death of cold.'

"'So will you,' he said. 'You must come with me.'

"He insisted, so I went, and was handsomely treated, you may depend.
Mr. Clayton gave me a new suit of clothes, and the next morning he
took me to Tiffany's--that's the best jeweller in New York--and
bought me this diamond ring. He first offered me money, but I felt
delicate about taking money for such a service, and told him so. So
he bought me this ring."

"Well, I declare!" ejaculated Aunt Deborah.

"That was an adventure. But it seems to me, Ferdinand, I would have
taken the money."

"As to that, aunt, I can sell this ring, if ever I get hard up, but I
hope I sha'n't be obliged to."

"You certainly behaved very well, Ferdinand. Do you ever see Mr.
Clayton now?"

"Sometimes, but I don't seek his society, for fear he would think I
wanted to get something more out of him."

"How much money do you think he'd have given you?" asked Aunt
Deborah, who was of a practical nature.

"A thousand dollars, perhaps more."

"Seems to me I would have taken it."

"If I had, people would have said that's why I jumped into the water,
whereas I wasn't thinking anything about getting a reward. So now,
aunt, you won't think it very strange that I wear such an expensive
ring."

"Of course it makes a difference, as you didn't buy it yourself. I
don't see how folks can be such fools as to throw away hundreds of
dollars for such a trifle."

"Well, aunt, everybody isn't as sensible and practical as you. Now I
agree with you; I think it's very foolish. Still I'm glad I've got
the ring, because I can turn it into money when I need to. Only, you
see, I don't like to part with a gift, although I don't think Mr.
Clayton would blame me."

"Of course he wouldn't, Ferdinand. But I don't see why you should
need money when you're goin' to get such a handsome salary in San
Francisco."

"To be sure, aunt, but there's something else. However, I won't
speak of it to-day. To-morrow I may want to ask your advice on a
matter of business."

"I'll advise you the best I can, Ferdinand," said the flattered
spinster.

"You see, aunt, you're so clear-headed, I shall place great
dependence on your advice. But I think I'll take a little walk now,
just to stretch my limbs."

"I've made good progress," said the young man to himself, as he
lounged over the farm. "The old lady swallows it all. To-morrow
must come my grand stroke. I thought I wouldn't propose it to-day,
for fear she'd suspect the ring story."

CHAPTER XX.

A BUSINESS TRANSACTION.

Ferdinand found life at the farm-house rather slow, nor did he
particularly enjoy the society of the spinster whom he called aunt.
But he was playing for a valuable stake, and meant to play out his
game.

"Strike while the iron is hot!" said he to himself; "That's a good
rule; but how shall I know when it is hot? However, I must risk
something, and take my chances with the old lady."

Aunt Deborah herself hastened his action. Her curiosity had been
aroused by Ferdinand's intimation that he wished her advice on a
matter of business, and the next morning, after breakfast, she said,
"Ferdinand, what was that you wanted to consult me about? You may as
well tell me now as any time."

"Here goes, then!" thought the young man.

"I'll tell you, aunt. You know I am offered a large salary in San
Francisco?"

"Yes, you told me so."

"And, as you said the other day, I can lay up half my salary, and in
time become a rich man."

"To be sure you can."

"But there is one difficulty in the way."

"What is that?"

"I must go out there."

"Of course you must," said the old lady, who did not yet see the
point.

"And unfortunately it costs considerable money."

"Haven't you got enough money to pay your fare out there?"

"No, aunt; it is very expensive living in New York, and I was unable
to save anything from my salary."

"How much does it cost to go out there?"

"About two hundred and fifty dollars."

"That's a good deal of money."

"So it is; but it will be a great deal better to pay it than to lose
so good a place."

"I hope," said the old lady, sharply, "you don't expect me to pay
your expenses out there."

"My dear aunt," said Ferdinand, hastily, "how can you suspect such a
thing?"

"Then what do you propose to do?" asked the spinster, somewhat
relieved.

"I wanted to ask your advice."

"Sell your ring. It's worth over six hundred dollars."

"Very true; but I should hardly like to part with it. I'll tell you
what I have thought of. It cost six hundred and fifty dollars. I
will give it as security to any one who will lend me five hundred
dollars, with permission to sell it if I fail to pay up the note in
six months. By the way, aunt, why can't you accommodate me in this
matter? You will lose nothing, and I will pay handsome interest."

"How do you know I have the money?"

"I don't know; but I think you must have. But, although I am your
nephew, I wouldn't think of asking you to lend me money without
security. Business is business, so I say."

"Very true, Ferdinand."

"I ask nothing on the score of relationship, but I will make a
business proposal."

"I don't believe the ring would fetch over six hundred dollars."

"It would bring just about that. The other fifty dollars represent
the profit. Now, aunt, I'll make you a regular business proposal.
If you'll lend me five hundred dollars, I'll give you my note for
five hundred and fifty, bearing interest at six per cent., payable in
six months, or, to make all sure, say in a year. I place the ring in
your hands, with leave to sell it at the end of that time if I fail
to carry out my agreement. But I sha'n't if I keep my health."

The old lady was attracted by the idea of making a bonus of fifty
dollars, but she was cautious, and averse to parting with her money.

"I don't know what to say, Ferdinand," she replied. "Five hundred
dollars is a good deal of money."

"So it is, aunt. Well, I don't know but I can offer you a little
better terms. Give me four hundred and seventy-five, and I'll give
you a note for five hundred and fifty. You can't make as much
interest anywhere else."

"I'd like to accommodate you," said the old lady, hesitating, for,
like most avaricious persons, she was captivated by the prospect of
making extra-legal interest.

"I know you would. Aunt Deborah, but I don't want to ask the money
as a favor. It is a strictly business transaction."

"I am afraid I couldn't spare more than four hundred and fifty."

"Very well, I won't dispute about the extra twenty-five dollars.
Considering how much income I'm going to get, it isn't of any great
importance."

"And you'll give me a note for five hundred and fifty?"

"Yes, certainly."

"I don't know as I ought to take so much interest."

"It's worth that to me, for though, of course, I could raise it by
selling the ring, I don't like to do that."

"Well, I don't know but I'll do it. I'll get some ink, and you can
write me the due bill."

"Why, Aunt Deborah, you haven't got the money here, have you?"

"Yes, I've got it in the house. A man paid up a mortgage last week,
and I haven't yet invested the money. I meant to put it in the
savings bank."

"You wouldn't get but six per cent there. Now the bonus I offer you
will be equal to about twenty per cent."

"And you really feel able to pay so much?"

"Yes, aunt; as I told you, it will be worth more than that to me."

"Well, Ferdinand, we'll settle the matter now. I'll go and get the
money, and you shall give me the note and the ring."

"Triumph!" said the young man to himself, when the old lady had left
the room. "You're badly sold, Aunt Deborah, but it's a good job for
me. I didn't think I would have so little trouble."

Within fifteen minutes the money was handed over, and Aunt Deborah
took charge of the note and the valuable diamond ring.

"Be careful of the ring, Aunt Deborah," said Ferdinand. "Remember, I
expect to redeem it again."

"I'll take good care of it, nephew, never fear!"

"If it were a little smaller, you could wear it, yourself."

"How would Deborah Kensington look with a diamond ring? The
neighbors would think I was crazy. No: I'll keep it in a safe place,
but I won't wear it."

"Now, Aunt Deborah, I must speak about other arrangements. Don't you
think it would be well to start for San Francisco as soon as
possible? You know I enter upon my duties as soon as I get there."

"Yes, Ferdinand, I think you ought to."

"I wish I could spare the time to spend a week with you, aunt; but
business is business, and my motto is, business before pleasure."

"And very proper, too, Ferdinand," said the old lady, approvingly.

"So I think I had better leave Centreville tomorrow."

"May be you had. You must write and let me know when you get there,
and how you like your place."

"So I will, and I shall be glad to know that you take an interest in
me. Now, aunt, as I have some errands to do, I will walk to the
village and come back about the middle of the afternoon."

"Won't you be back to dinner?"

"No, I think not, aunt."

"Very well, Ferdinand. Come as soon as you can."

Half an hour later, Ferdinand entered the office of the "Centreville
Gazette."

"How do you do, Mr. Kensington?" said Clapp, eagerly. "Anything new?"

"I should like to speak with you a moment in private, Mr. Clapp."

"All right!"

Clapp put on his coat, and went outside, shutting the door behind him.

"Well," said Ferdinand, "I've succeeded."

"Have you got the money?"

"Yes, but not quite as much as I anticipated."

"Can't you carry out your plan?" asked Clapp, soberly, fearing he was
to be left out in the cold.

"I've formed a new one. Instead of going to California, which is
very expensive, we'll go out West, say to St. Louis, and try our
fortune there. What do you say?"

"I'm agreed. Can Luke go too?"

"Yes. I'll take you both out there, and lend you fifty dollars each
besides, and you shall pay me back as soon as you are able. Will you
let your friend know?"

"Yes, I'll undertake that; but when do you propose to start?"

"To-morrow morning."

"Whew! That's short notice."

"I want to get away as soon as possible, for fear the old lady should
change her mind, and want her money back."

"That's where you're right."

"Of course you must give up your situation at once, as there is short
time to get ready."

"No trouble about that," said Clapp. "I've hated the business for a
long time, and shall be only too glad to leave. It's the same with
Luke. He won't shed many tears at leaving Centreville."

"Well, we'll all meet this evening at the hotel. I depend upon your
both being ready to start in the morning."

"All right, I'll let Luke know."

It may be thought singular that Ferdinand should have made so liberal
an offer to two comparative strangers; but, to do the young man
justice, though he had plenty of faults, he was disposed to be
generous when he had money, though he was not particular how he
obtained it. Clapp and Luke Harrison he recognized as congenial
spirits, and he was willing to sacrifice something to obtain their
companionship. How long his fancy was likely to last was perhaps
doubtful; but for the present he was eager to associate them with his
own plans.

CHAPTER XXI.

HARRY IS PROMOTED.

Clapp re-entered the printing office highly elated.

"Mr. Anderson," said he to the editor, "I am going to leave you."

Ferguson and Harry Walton looked up in surprise, and Mr. Anderson
asked,--

"Have you got another place?"

"No; I am going West."

"Indeed! How long have you had that in view?"

"Not long. I am going with Mr. Kensington."

"The one who just called on you?"

"Yes."

"How soon do you want to leave?"

"Now."

"That is rather short notice."

"I know it, but I leave town to-morrow morning."

"Well, I wish you success. Here is the money I owe you."

"Sha'n't we see you again, Clapp?" asked Ferguson.

"Yes; I'll just look in and say good-by. Now I must go home and get
ready."

"Well, Ferguson," said Mr. Andersen, after Clapp's departure, "that
is rather sudden."

"So I think."

"How can we get along with only two hands?"

"Very well, sir. I'm willing to work a little longer, and Harry here
is a pretty quick compositor now. The fact is, there isn't enough
work for three."

"Then you think I needn't hire another journeyman?"

"No."

"If you both work harder I must increase your wages, and then I shall
save money."

"I sha'n't object to that," said Ferguson, smiling.

"Nor I," said Harry.

"I was intending at any rate to raise Harry's wages, as I find he
does nearly as much as a journeyman. Hereafter I will give you five
dollars a week besides your board."

"Oh, thank you, sir!" said Harry, overjoyed at his good fortune.

"As for you, Ferguson, if you will give me an hour more daily, I will
add three dollars a week to your pay."

"Thank you, sir. I think I can afford now to give Mrs. Ferguson the
new bonnet she was asking for this morning."

"I don't want to overwork you two, but if that arrangement proves
satisfactory, we will continue it."

"I suppose you will be buying your wife a new bonnet too; eh, Harry?"
said Ferguson.

"I may buy myself a new hat. Luke Harrison turned up his nose at my
old one the other day."

"What will Luke do without Clapp? They were always together."

"Perhaps he is going too."

"I don't know where he will raise the money, nor Clapp either, for
that matter."

"Perhaps their new friend furnishes the money."

"If he does, he is indeed a friend."

"Well, it has turned out to our advantage, at any rate, Harry.
Suppose you celebrate it by coming round and taking supper with me?"

"With the greatest pleasure."

Harry was indeed made happy by his promotion. Having been employed
for some months on board-wages, he had been compelled to trench upon
the small stock of money which he had saved up when in the employ of
Prof. Henderson, and he had been unable to send any money to his
father, whose circumstances were straitened, and who found it very
hard to make both ends meet. That evening he wrote a letter to his
father, in which he inclosed ten dollars remaining to him from his
fund of savings, at the same time informing him of his promotion. A
few days later, he received the following reply:--

"MY DEAR SON:

"Your letter has given me great satisfaction, for I conclude from
your promotion that you have done your duty faithfully, and won the
approbation of your employer. The wages you now earn will amply pay
your expenses, while you may reasonably hope that they will be still
further increased, as you become more skilful and experienced. I am
glad to hear that you are using your leisure hours to such good
purpose, and are trying daily to improve your education. In this way
you may hope in time to qualify yourself for the position of an
editor, which is an honorable and influential profession, to which I
should be proud to have you belong.

"The money which you so considerately inclose comes at the right
time. Your brother needs some new clothes, and this will enable me
to provide them. We all send love, and hope to hear from you often.

"Your affectionate father,
"HIRAM WALTON."

Harry's promotion took place just before the beginning of September.
During the next week the fall term of the Prescott Academy commenced,
and the village streets again became lively with returning students.
Harry was busy at the case, when Oscar Vincent entered the printing
office, and greeted him warmly.

"How are you, Oscar?" said Harry, his face lighting up with pleasure.
"I am glad to see you back. I would shake hands, but I am afraid you
wouldn't like it," and Harry displayed his hands soiled with
printer's ink.

"Well, we'll shake hands in spirit, then, Harry. How have you passed
the time?"

"I have been very busy, Oscar."

"And I have been very lazy. I have scarcely opened a book, that is,
a study-book, during the vacation. How much have you done in French?"

"I have nearly finished Telemachus."

"You have! Then you have done splendidly. By the way, Harry, I
received the paper you sent, containing your essay. It does you
credit, my boy."

Mr. Anderson, who was sitting at his desk, caught the last words.

"What is that, Harry?" he asked. "Have you been writing for the
papers?"

Harry blushed.

"Yes, sir," he replied. "I have written two or three articles for
the 'Boston Weekly Standard.'"

"Indeed! I should like to see them."

"You republished one of them in the 'Gazette,' Mr. Anderson," said
Ferguson.

"What do you refer to?"

"Don't you remember an article on 'Ambition,' which you inserted some
weeks ago?"

"Yes, it was a good article. Did you write it, Walton?"

"Yes, air."

"Why didn't you tell me of it?"

"He was too bashful," said Ferguson.

"I am glad to know that you can write," said the editor. "I shall
call upon you for assistance, in getting up paragraphs occasionally."

"I shall be very glad to do what I can," said Harry, gratified.

"Harry is learning to be an editor," said Ferguson.

"I will give him a chance for practice, then," and Mr. Anderson
returned to his exchanges.

"By the way, Oscar," said Harry, "I am not a printer's devil any
longer. I am promoted to be a journeyman."

"I congratulate you, Harry, but what will Fitz do now? He used to
take so much pleasure in speaking of you as a printer's devil."

"I am sorry to deprive him of that pleasure. Did you see much of him
in vacation, Oscar?"

"I used to meet him almost every day walking down Washington Street,
swinging a light cane, and wearing a stunning necktie, as usual."

"Is he coming back this term?"

"Yes, he came on the same train with me. Hasn't he called to pay his
respects to you?"

"No," answered Harry, with a smile. "He hasn't done me that honor.
He probably expects me to make the first call."

"Well, Harry, I suppose you will be on hand next week, when the
Clionian holds its first meeting?"

"Yes, I will be there."

"And don't forget to call at my room before that time. I want to
examine you in French, and see how much progress you have made."

"Thank you, Oscar."

"Now I must be going. I have got a tough Greek lesson to prepare for
to-morrow. I suppose it will take me twice as long as usual. It is
always hard to get to work again after a long vacation. So
good-morning, and don't forget to call at my room soon--say to-morrow
evening."

"I will come."

"What a gentlemanly fellow your friend is!" said Ferguson.

"What is his name, Harry?" asked Mr. Anderson.

"Oscar Vincent. His father is an editor in Boston."

"What! the son of John Vincent?" said Mr. Anderson, surprised.

"Yes, sir; do you know his father?"

"Only by reputation. He is a man of great ability."

"Oscar is a smart fellow, too, but not a hard student."

"I shall be glad to have you bring him round to the house some
evening, Harry. I shall be glad to become better acquainted with
him."

"Thank you, sir. I will give him the invitation."

It is very possible that Harry rose in the estimation of his
employer, from his intimacy with the son of a man who stood so high
in his own profession. At all events, Harry found himself from this
time treated with greater respect and consideration than before, and
Mr. Anderson often called upon him to write paragraphs upon local
matters, so that his position might be regarded except as to pay, as
that of an assistant editor.

CHAPTER XXII.

MISS DEBORAH'S EYES ARE OPENED.

Aunt Deborah felt that she had done a good stroke of business. She
had lent Ferdinand four hundred and fifty dollars, and received in
return a note for five hundred and fifty, secured by a diamond ring
worth even more. She plumed herself on her shrewdness, though at
times she felt a little twinge at the idea of the exorbitant interest
which she had exacted from so near a relative.

"But he said the money was worth that to him," she said to herself in
extenuation, "and he's goin' to get two thousand dollars a year. I
didn't want to lend the money, I'd rather have had it in the savings
bank, but I did it to obleege him."

By such casuistry Aunt Deborah quieted her conscience, and carefully
put the ring away among her bonds and mortgages.

"Who'd think a little ring like that should be worth so much?" she
said to herself. "It's clear waste of money. But then Ferdinand
didn't buy it. It was give to him, and a very foolish gift it was
too. Railly, it makes me nervous to have it to take care of. It's
so little it might get lost easy."

Aunt Deborah plumed herself upon her shrewdness. It was not easy to
get the advantage of her in a bargain, and yet she had accepted the
ring as security for a considerable loan without once questioning its
genuineness. She relied implicitly upon her nephew's assurance of
its genuineness, just as she had relied upon his assertion of
relationship. But the time was soon coming when she was to be
undeceived.

One day, a neighbor stopped his horse in front of her house, and
jumping out of his wagon, walked up to the door and knocked.

"Good-morning, Mr. Simpson," said the old lady, answering the knock
herself; "won't you come in?"

"Thank you, Miss Deborah, I can't stop this morning. I was at the
post-office just now, when I saw there was a letter for you, and
thought I'd bring it along."

"A letter for me!" said Aunt Deborah in some surprise, for her
correspondence was very limited. "Who's it from?"

"It is post-marked New York," said Mr. Simpson.

"I don't know no one in New York," said the old lady, fumbling in her
pockets for her spectacles.

"Maybe it's one of your old beaux," said Mr. Simpson, humorously, a
joke which brought a grim smile to the face of the old spinster.
"But I must be goin'. If it's an offer of marriage, don't forget to
invite me to the wedding."

Aunt Deborah went into the house, and seating herself in her
accustomed place, carefully opened the letter. She turned over the
page, and glanced at the signature. To her astonishment it was
signed,

"Your affectionate nephew,
"FERDINAND B. KENSINGTON."

"Ferdinand!" she exclaimed in surprise. "Why, I thought he was in
Californy by this time. How could he write from New York? I s'pose
he'll explain. I hope he didn't lose the money I lent him."

The first sentence in the letter was destined to surprise Miss
Deborah yet more.

"Dear aunt," it commenced, "it is so many years since we have met,
that I am afraid you have forgotten me."

"So many years!" repeated Miss Deborah in bewilderment. "What on
earth can Ferdinand mean? Why, it's only five weeks yesterday since
he was here. He must be crazy."

She resumed reading.

"I have often had it in mind to make you a little visit, but I have
been so engrossed by business that I have been unable to get away. I
am a salesman for A. T. Stewart, whom you must have heard of, as he
is the largest retail dealer in the city. I have been three years in
his employ, and have been promoted by degrees, till I now receive
quite a good salary, until--and that is the news I have to write
you--I have felt justifed in getting married. My wedding is fixed
for next week, Thursday. I should be very glad if you could attend,
though I suppose you would consider it a long journey. But at any
rate I can assure you that I should be delighted to see you present
on the occasion, and so would Maria. If you can't come, write to me,
at any rate, in memory of old times. It is just possible that during
our bridal tour--we are to go to the White Mountains for a week--we
shall call on you. Let me know if it will be convenient for you to
receive us for a day.

"Your affectionate nephew,
"FERDINAND B. KENSINGTON."

Miss Deborah read this letter like one dazed. She had to read it a
second time before she could comprehend its purport.

"Ferdinand going to be married! He never said a word about it when
he was here. And he don't say a word about Californy. Then again he
says he hasn't seen me for years. Merciful man! I see it now--the
other fellow was an impostor!" exclaimed Miss Deborah, jumping, to
her feet in excitement. "What did he want to deceive an old woman
for?"

It flashed upon her at once. He came after money, and he had
succeeded only too well. He had carried away four hundred and fifty
dollars with him. True, he had left a note, and security. But
another terrible suspicion had entered the old lady's mind; the ring
might not be genuine.

"I must know at once," exclaimed the disturbed spinster. "I'll go
over to Brandon, to the jeweller's, and inquire. If it's paste,
then, Deborah Kensington, you're the biggest fool in Centreville."

Miss Deborah summoned Abner, her farm servant from the field, and
ordered him instantly to harness the horse, as she wanted to go to
Brandon.

"Do you want me to go with you?" asked Abner.

"To be sure, I can't drive so fur, and take care of the horse."

"It'll interrupt the work," objected Abner.

"Never mind about the work," said Deborah, impatiently. "I must go
right off. It's on very important business."

"Wouldn't it be best to go after dinner?"

"No, we'll get some dinner over there, at the tavern."

"What's got into the old woman?" thought Abner. "It isn't like her
to spend money at a tavern for dinner, when she might as well dine at
home. Interruptin' the work, too! However, it's her business!"

Deborah was ready and waiting when the horse drove up the door. She
got in, and they set out. Abner tried to open a conversation, but he
found Miss Deborah strangely unsocial. She appeared to take no
interest in the details of farm work of which he spoke.

"Something's on her mind, I guess," thought Abner; and, as we know,
he was right.

In her hand Deborah clutched the ring, of whose genuineness she had
come to entertain such painful doubts. It might be genuine, she
tried to hope, even if it came from an impostor; but her hope was
small. She felt a presentiment that it would prove as false as the
man from whom she received it. As for the story of the manner in
which he became possessed of it, doubtless that was as false as the
rest.

"How blind I was!" groaned Deborah in secret. "I saw he didn't look
like the family. What a goose I was to believe that story about his
changin' the color of his hair! I was an old fool, and that's all
about it."

"Drive to the jeweller's," said Miss Deborah, when they reached
Brandon.

In some surprise, Abner complied.

Deborah got out of the wagon hastily and entered the store.

"What can I do for you, Miss Kensington?" asked the jeweller, who
recognized the old lady.

"I want to show you a ring," said Aunt Deborah, abruptly. "Tell me
what it's worth."

She produced the ring which the false Ferdinand had intrusted to her.

The jeweller scanned it closely.

"It's a good imitation of a diamond ring," he said.

"Imitation!" gasped Deborah.

"Yes; you didn't think it was genuine?"

"What's it worth?"

"The value of the gold. That appears to be genuine. It may be worth
three dollars."

"Three dollars!" ejaculated Deborah. "He told me it cost six hundred
and fifty."

"Whoever told you that was trying to deceive you."

"You're sure about its being imitation, are you?"

"There can be no doubt about it."

"That's what I thought," muttered the old lady, her face pale and
rigid. "Is there anything to pay?"

"Oh, no; I am glad to be of service to you."

"Good-afternoon, then," said Deborah, abruptly, and she left the
store.

"Drive home, Abner, as quick as you can," she said.

"I haven't had any dinner," Abner remarked, "You said you'd get some
at the tavern."

"Did I? Well, drive over there. I'm not hungry myself, but I'll pay
for some dinner for you."

Poor Aunt Deborah! it was not the loss alone that troubled her,
though she was fond of money; but it was humiliating to think that
she had fallen such an easy prey to a designing adventurer. In her
present bitter mood, she would gladly have ridden fifty miles to see
the false Ferdinand hanged.

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE PLOT AGAINST FLETCHER.

The intimacy between Harry and Oscar Vincent continued, and, as
during the former term, the latter volunteered to continue giving
French lessons to our hero. These were now partly of a
conversational character, and, as Harry was thoroughly in earnest, it
was not long before he was able to speak quite creditably.

About the first of November, Fitzgerald Fletcher left the Prescott
Academy, and returned to his home in Boston. It was not because he
had finished his education, but because he felt that he was not
appreciated by his fellow-students. He had been ambitious to be
elected to an official position in the Clionian Society, but his
aspirations were not gratified. He might have accepted this
disappointment, and borne it as well as he could, had it not been
aggravated by the elevation of Harry Walton to the presidency. To be
only a common member, while a boy so far his social inferior was
President, was more than Fitzgerald could stand. He was so incensed
that upon the announcement of the vote he immediately rose to a point
of order.

"Mr. President," he said warmly, "I must protest against this
election. Walton is not a member of the Prescott Academy, and it is
unconstitutional to elect him President."

"Will the gentleman point out the constitutional clause which has
been violated by Walton's election?" said Oscar Vincent.

"Mr. President," said Fletcher, "this Society was founded by students
of the Prescott Academy; and the offices should be confined to the
members of the school."

Harry Walton rose and said: "Mr. President, my election has been a
great surprise to myself. I had no idea that any one had thought of
me for the position. I feel highly complimented by your kindness,
and deeply grateful for it; but there is something in what Mr.
Fletcher says. You have kindly allowed me to share in the benefits
of the Society, and that satisfies me. I think it will be well for
you to make another choice as President."

"I will put it to vote," said the presiding officer. "Those who are
ready to accept Mr. Walton's resignation will signify it in the usual
way."

Fletcher raised his hand, but he was alone.

"Those who are opposed," said the President.

Every other hand except Harry's was now raised.

"Mr. Walton, your resignation is not accepted," said the presiding
officer. "I call upon you to assume the duties of your new position."

Harry rose, and, modestly advanced to the chair. "I have already
thanked you, gentlemen," he said, "for the honor you have conferred
upon me in selecting me as your presiding officer. I have only to
add that I will discharge its duties to the best of my ability."

All applauded except Fletcher. He sat with an unpleasant scowl upon
his face, and waited for the result of the balloting for
Vice-President and Secretary. Had he been elected to either
position, the Clionian would probably have retained his illustrious
name upon its roll. But as these honors were conferred upon other
members, he formed the heroic resolution no longer to remain a member.

"Mr. President," he said, when the last vote was announced, "I desire
to terminate my connection with this Society."

"I hope Mr. Fletcher will reconsider his determination," said Harry
from the chair.

"I would like to inquire the gentleman's reasons," said Tom Carver.

"I don't like the way in which the Society is managed," said
Fletcher. "I predict that it will soon disband."

"I don't see any signs of it," said Oscar. "If the gentleman is
really sincere, he should not desert the Clionian in the hour of
danger."

"I insist upon my resignation," said Fletcher.

"I move that it be accepted," said Tom Carver.

"Second the motion," said the boy who sat next him.

The resignation was unanimously accepted. Fletcher ought to have
felt gratified at the prompt granting of his request, but he was not.
He had intended to strike dismay into the Society by his proposal to
withdraw, but there was no consternation visible. Apparently they
were willing to let him go.

He rose from his seat mortified and wrathful.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you have complied with my request, and I am
deeply grateful. I no longer consider it an honor to belong to the
Clionian. I trust your new President may succeed as well in his new
office as he has in the capacity of a printer's devil."

Fletcher was unable to proceed, being interrupted by a storm of
hisses, in the midst of which he hurriedly made his exit.

"He wanted to be President himself--that's what's the matter," said
Tom Carver in a whisper to his neighbor. "But he couldn't blame us
for not wanting to have him."

Other members of the Society came to the same conclusion, and it was
generally said that Fletcher had done himself no good by his
undignified resentment. His parting taunt levelled at Harry was
regarded as mean and ungenerous, and only strengthened the sentiment
in favor of our hero who bore his honors modestly. In fact Tom
Carver, who was fond of fun, conceived a project for mortifying
Fletcher, and readily obtained the co-operation of his classmates.

It must be premised that Fitz was vain of his reading and
declamation. He had a secret suspicion that, if he should choose to
devote his talents to the stage, he would make a second Booth. This
self-conceit of his made it the more easy to play off the following
joke upon him.

A fortnight later, the young ladies of the village proposed to hold a
Fair to raise funds for some public object. At the head of the
committee of arrangements was a sister of the doctor's wife, named
Pauline Clinton. This will explain the following letter which,
Fletcher received the succeeding day:--

"FITZGERALD FLETCHER, ESQ.--Dear Sir: Understanding that you are a
superior reader, we should be glad of your assistance in lending
_eclat_ to the Fair which we propose to hold on the evening of the
29th. Will you be kind enough to occupy twenty minutes by reading
such selections as in your opinion will be of popular interest? It
is desirable that you should let me know as soon as possible what
pieces you have selected, that they may be printed on the programme.

"Yours respectfully,
"PAULINE CLINTON,
"(for the Committee)."

This note reached Fletcher at a time when he was still smarting from
his disappointment in obtaining promotion from the Clionian Society.
He read it with a flushed and triumphant face. He never thought of
questioning its genuineness. Was it not true that he was a superior
reader? What more natural than that he should be invited to give
_eclat_ to the Fair by the exercise of his talents! He felt it to be
a deserved compliment. It was a greater honor to be solicited to
give a public reading than to be elected President of the Clionian
Society.

"They won't laugh at me now," thought Fletcher.

He immediately started for Oscar's room to make known his new honors.

"How are you, Fitz?" said Oscar, who was in the secret, and guessed
the errand on which he came.

"Very well, thank you, Oscar," answered Fletcher, in a stately
manner.

"Anything new with you?" asked Oscar, carelessly.

"Not much," said Fletcher. "There's a note I just received.

"Whew!" exclaimed Oscar, in affected astonishment. "Are you going to
accept?"

"I suppose I ought to oblige them," said Fletcher. "It won't be much
trouble to me, you know."

"To be sure; it's in a good cause. But how did they hear of your
reading?"

"Oh, there are no secrets in a small village like this," said
Fletcher.

"It's certainly a great compliment. Has anybody else been invited to
read?"

"I think not," said Fletcher, proudly. "They rely upon me."

"Couldn't you get a chance for me? It would be quite an honor, and I
should like it for the sake of the family."

"I shouldn't feel at liberty to interfere with their arrangements,"
said Fletcher, who didn't wish to share the glory with any one.
"Besides, you don't read well enough."

"Well, I suppose I must give it up," said Oscar, in a tone of
resignation. "By the way, what have you decided to read?"

"I haven't quite made up my mind," said Fletcher, in a tone of
importance. "I have only just received the invitation, you know."

"Haven't you answered it yet?"

"No; but I shall as soon as I go home. Good-night, Oscar."

"Good-night, Fitz."

"How mad Fitz will be when he finds he has been sold!" said Oscar to
himself. "But he deserves it for treating Harry so meanly."

CHAPTER XXIV.

READING UNDER DIFFICULTIES.

On reaching home, Fletcher looked over his "Speaker," and selected
three poems which he thought he could read with best effect. The
selection made, he sat down to his desk, and wrote a reply to the
invitation, as follows:--

"MISS PAULINE CLINTON: I hasten to acknowledge your polite invitation
to occupy twenty minutes in reading choice selections at your
approaching Fair. I have paid much attention to reading, and hope to
be able to give pleasure to the large numbers who will doubtless
honor the occasion with their presence. I have selected three
poems,--Poe's Raven, the Battle of Ivry, by Macaulay, and Marco
Bozarris, by Halleck. I shall be much pleased if my humble efforts
add _eclat_ to the occasion.

"Yours, very respectfully,
"FITZGERALD FLETCHER."

"There," said Fletcher, reading his letter through with satisfaction.
"I think that will do. It is high-toned and dignified, and shows
that I am highly cultured and refined. I will copy it off, and mail
it."

Fletcher saw his letter deposited in the post-office, and returned to
his room.

"I ought to practise reading these poems, so as to do it up
handsomely," he said. "I suppose I shall get a good notice in the
'Gazette.' If I do, I will buy a dozen papers, and send to my
friends. They will see that I am a person of consequence in
Centreville, even if I didn't get elected to any office in the high
and mighty Clionian Society."

I am sorry that I cannot reproduce the withering sarcasm which
Fletcher put into his tone in the last sentence.

When Demosthenes was practising oratory, he sought the sea-shore; but
Fitzgerald repaired instead to a piece of woods about half a mile
distant. It was rather an unfortunate selection, as will appear.

It so happened that Tom Carver and Hiram Huntley were strolling about
the woods, when they espied Fletcher approaching with an open book in
his hand.

"Hiram," said Tom, "there's fun coming. There's Fitz Fletcher with
his 'Speaker' in his hand. He's going to practise reading in the
woods. Let us hide, and hear the fun."

"I'm in for it," said Hiram, "but where will be the best place to
hide?"

"Here in this hollow tree. He'll be very apt to halt here."

"All right! Go ahead, I'll follow."

They quickly concealed themselves in the tree, unobserved by
Fletcher, whose eyes were on his book.

About ten feet from the tree he paused.

"I guess this'll be a good place," he said aloud. "There's no one to
disturb me here. Now, which shall I begin with? I think I'll try
The Raven. But first it may be well to practise an appropriate
little speech. Something like this:"--

Fletcher made a low bow to the assembled trees, cleared his throat,
and commenced,--

"Ladies and Gentlemen: It gives me great pleasure to appear before
you this evening, in compliance with the request of the committee,
who have thought that my humble efforts would give _eclat_ to the
fair. I am not a professional reader, but I have ever found pleasure
in reciting the noble productions of our best authors, and I hope to
give you pleasure."

"That'll do, I think," said Fletcher, complacently. "Now I'll try
The Raven."

In a deep, sepulchral tone, Fletcher read the first verse, which is
quoted below:--

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
''Tis some visitor,' I muttered, 'tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more.'"

Was it fancy, or did Fletcher really hear a slow, measured tapping
near him--upon one of the trees, as it seemed? He started, and
looked nervously; but the noise stopped, and he decided that he had
been deceived, since no one was visible.

The boys within the tree made no other demonstration till Fletcher
had read the following verse:--

"Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before.
'Surely,' said I, 'surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then what thereat is, and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore;
'Tis the wind, and nothing more.'"

Here an indescribable, unearthly noise was heard from the interior of
the tree, like the wailing of some discontented ghost.

"Good heavens! what's that?" ejaculated Fletcher, turning pale, and
looking nervously around him.

It was growing late, and the branches above him, partially stripped
of their leaves, rustled in the wind. Fletcher was somewhat nervous,
and the weird character of the poem probably increased this feeling,
and made him very uncomfortable. He summoned up courage enough,
however, to go on, though his voice shook a little. He was permitted
to go on without interruption to the end. Those who are familiar
with the poem, know that it becomes more and more wild and weird as
it draws to the conclusion. This, with his gloomy surroundings, had
its effect upon the mind of Fletcher. Scarcely had he uttered the
last words, when a burst of wild and sepulchral laughter was heard
within a few feet of him. A cry of fear proceeded from Fletcher,
and, clutching his book, he ran at wild speed from the enchanted
spot, not daring to look behind him. Indeed, he never stopped
running till he passed out of the shadow of the woods, and was well
on his way homeward.

Tom Carver and Hiram crept out from their place of concealment. They
threw themselves on the ground, and roared with laughter.

"I never had such fun in my life," said Tom.

"Nor I."

"I wonder what Fitz thought."

"That the wood was enchanted, probably; he left in a hurry."

"Yes; he stood not on the order of his going, but went at once."

"I wish I could have seen him. We must have made a fearful noise."

"I was almost frightened myself. He must be almost home by this
time."

"When do you think he'll find out about the trick?"

"About the invitation? Not till he gets a letter from Miss Clinton,
telling him it is all a mistake. He will be terribly mortified."

Meanwhile Fletcher reached home, tired and out of breath. His
temporary fear was over, but he was quite at sea as to the cause of
the noises he had heard. He could not suspect any of his
school-fellows, for no one was visible, nor had he any idea that any
were in the wood at the time.

"I wonder if it was an animal," he reflected. "It was a fearful
noise. I must find some other place to practise reading in. I
wouldn't go to that wood again for fifty dollars."

But Fletcher's readings were not destined to be long continued. When
he got home from school the next day, he found the following note,
which had been left for him during the forenoon:--

"MR. FITZGERALD FLETCHER,--Dear Sir: I beg to thank you for your kind
proposal to read at our Fair; but I think there must be some mistake
in the matter, as we have never contemplated having any readings, nor
have I written to you on the subject, as you intimate. I fear that
we shall not have time to spare for such a feature, though, under
other circumstances, it might be attractive. In behalf of the
committee, I beg to tender thanks for your kind proposal.

"Yours respectfully,
"PAULINE CLINTON."

Fletcher read this letter with feelings which can better be imagined
than described. He had already written home in the most boastful
manner about the invitation he had received, and he knew that before
he could contradict it, it would have been generally reported by his
gratified parents to his city friends. And now he would be compelled
to explain that he had been duped, besides enduring the jeers of
those who had planned the trick.

This was more than he could endure. He formed a sudden resolution.
He would feign illness, and go home the next day. He could let it be
inferred that it was sickness alone which had compelled him to give
up the idea of appearing as a public reader.

Fitz immediately acted upon his decision, and the next day found him
on the way to Boston. He never returned to the Prescott Academy as a
student.

CHAPTER XXV.

AN INVITATION TO BOSTON.

Harry was doubly glad that he was now in receipt of a moderate
salary. He welcomed it as an evidence that he was rising in the
estimation of his employer, which was of itself satisfactory, and
also because in his circumstances the money was likely to be useful.

"Five dollars a week!" said Harry to himself. "Half of that ought to
be enough to pay for my clothes and miscellaneous expenses, and the
rest I will give to father. It will help him take care of the rest
of the family."

Our hero at once made this proposal by letter. This is a paragraph
from his father's letter in reply:--

"I am glad, my dear son, to find you so considerate and dutiful, as
your offer indicates. I have indeed had a hard time in supporting my
family, and have not always been able to give them the comforts I
desired. Perhaps it is my own fault in part. I am afraid I have not
the faculty of getting along and making money that many others have.
But I have had an unexpected stroke of good fortune. Last evening a
letter reached your mother, stating that her cousin Nancy had
recently died at St. Albans, Vermont, and that, in accordance with
her will, your mother is to receive a legacy of four thousand
dollars. With your mother's consent, one-fourth of this is to be
devoted to the purchase of the ten acres adjoining my little farm,
and the balance will be so invested as to yield us an annual income
of one hundred and eighty dollars. Many would think this a small
addition to an income, but it will enable us to live much more
comfortably. You remember the ten-acre lot to the east of us,
belonging to the heirs of Reuben Todd. It is excellent land, well
adapted for cultivation, and will fully double the value of my farm.

"You see, therefore, my dear son, that a new era of prosperity has
opened for us. I am now relieved from the care and anxiety which for
years have oppressed me, and feel sure of a comfortable support.
Instead of accepting the half of your salary, I desire you, if
possible, to save it, depositing in some reliable savings
institution. If you do this every year till you are twenty-one, you
will have a little capital to start you in business, and will be able
to lead a more prosperous career than your father. Knowing you as
well as I do, I do not feel it necessary to caution you against
unnecessary expenditures. I will only remind you that extravagance
is comparative, and that what would be only reasonable expenditure
for one richer than yourself would be imprudent in you."

Harry read this letter with great joy. He was warmly attached to the
little home circle, and the thought that they were comparatively
provided for gave him fresh courage. He decided to adopt his
father's suggestion, and the very next week deposited three dollars
in the savings bank.

"That is to begin an account," he thought. "If I can only keep that
up, I shall feel quite rich at the end of a year."

Several weeks rolled by, and Thanksgiving approached.

Harry was toiling at his case one day, when Oscar Vincent entered the
office.

"Hard at work, I see, Harry," he said.

"Yes," said Harry; "I can't afford to be idle."

"I want you to be idle for three days," said Oscar.

Harry looked up in surprise.

"How is that?" he asked.

"You know we have a vacation from Wednesday to Monday at the Academy."

"Over Thanksgiving?"

"Yes."

"Well, I am going home to spend that time, and I want you to go with
me."

"What, to Boston?" asked Harry, startled, for to him, inexperienced
as he was, that seemed a very long journey.

"Yes. Father and mother gave me permission to invite you. Shall I
show you the letter?"

"I'll take it for granted, Oscar, but I am afraid I can't go."

"Nonsense! What's to prevent?"

"In the first place, Mr. Anderson can't spare me."

"Ask him."

"What's that?" asked the editor, hearing his name mentioned.

"I have invited Harry to spend the Thanksgiving vacation with me in
Boston, and he is afraid you can't spare him?"

"Does your father sanction your invitation?"

"Yes, he wrote me this morning--that is, I got the letter this
morning--telling me to ask Harry to come."

Now the country editor had a great respect for the city editor, who
was indeed known by reputation throughout New England as a man of
influence and ability, and he felt disposed to accede to any request
of his.

So he said pleasantly, "Of course, Harry, we shall miss you, but if
Mr. Ferguson is disposed to do a little additional work, we will get
along till Monday. What do you say, Mr. Ferguson?"

"I shall be very glad to oblige Harry," said the older workman, "and
I hope he will have a good time."

"That settles the question, Harry," said Oscar, joyfully. "So all
you've got to do is to pack up and be ready to start to-morrow
morning. It's Tuesday, you know, already."

Harry hesitated, and Oscar observed it.

"Well, what's the matter now?" he said; "out with it."

"I'll tell you, Oscar," said Harry, coloring a little. "Your father
is a rich man, and lives handsomely. I haven't any clothes good
enough to wear on a visit to your house."

"Oh, hang your clothes!" said Oscar, impetuously. "It isn't your
clothes we invite. It's yourself."

"Still, Oscar--"

"Come, I see you think I am like Fitz Fletcher, after all. Say you

Book of the day: