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“Three dollars apiece. That pays for the supper too.”

Harry shook his head. It was for rum a week’s wages. If he were not trying to save money for his father, he might have ventured to incur this expense, but he felt that under present circumstances it would not be best.

“I can’t go,” said Harry.

“Oh, come along,” urged Luke. “Don’t make such a mope of yourself. You’ll be sure to enjoy it.”

“I know I should; but I can’t afford it.”

“I never knew a feller that thought so much of money as you,” sneered Luke.

“I suppose it looks so,” said Harry; “but it isn’t true.”

“Everybody says you are a miser.”

“I have good reasons for not going.”

“If you would come, it would make the expense lighter for the rest of us and you would have a jolly time.”

This conversation took place as they were walking home from the store in the evening. Harry pulled out his handkerchief suddenly from his pocket and with it came his pocketbook, containing all his savings. He didn’t hear if fall; but Luke did, and the latter, moreover, suspected what it was. He did not call Harry’s attention to it, but, falling back, said: “I’ve got to go back to the store. I forgot something. Good night!”

“Good night!” said Harry, unsuspiciously.

Luke stooped swiftly while our hero’s back was turned, and picked up the pocketbook. He slipped it into his own pocket, and, instead of going back to the store, went to his own room, locked the door, and then eagerly pulled out the pocketbook and counted the contents.

“Thirty-three dollars! What a miser that fellow is! It serves him right to lose his money.”

CHAPTER XIX

An Unwelcome Visitor

Luke Harrison had picked up Harry’s pocketbook, and, though knowing it to be his, concealed the discovery upon the impulse of the moment.

“What I find is mine,” he said to himself. “Of course it is. Harry Walton deserves to lose his money.”

It will be seen that he had already decided to keep the money. It looked so tempting to him, as his eyes rested on the thick roll of bills–for, though insignificant in amount, the bills were ones and twos, and twenty in number–that he could not make up his mind to return it.

Luke was fond of new clothes. He wanted to reestablish his credit with Merrill, for he was in want of a new coat and knew that it would be useless to order one unless he had some money to pay on account. He decided to use a part of Harry’s money for this purpose. It would be better, however, he thought, to wait a day or two, as the news of the loss would undoubtedly spread abroad, and his order might excite suspicion, particularly as he had been in Harry’s company at the time the money disappeared. He therefore put the pocketbook into his trunk, and carefully locked it. Then he went to bed.

Meanwhile, Harry reached Mr. Leavitt’s unconscious of the serious misfortune which had befallen him. He went into the sitting room and talked a while with Mr. Leavitt, and at ten o’clock took his lamp and went up to bed. While he was undressing he felt in his pocket for his money, intending to lock it up in his trunk as usual. His dismay may be conceived when he could not find it.

Poor Harry sank into a chair with that sudden sinking of the heart which unlooked-for misfortune brings and tried to think where he could have left the pocketbook.

That evening he found himself under the necessity of buying a necktie at the store, and so had taken it from his trunk. Could he have left it on the counter? No; he distinctly remembered replacing it in his pocket. He felt the need of consulting with somebody, and with his lamp in his hand went downstairs again.

“You haven’t concluded to sit up all night, have you?” asked Mr. Leavitt, surprised at his reappearance.

“Are you sick, Harry?” asked Mrs. Leavitt. “You’re looking dreadfully pale.”

“I’ve lost my pocketbook,” said Harry. .

“How much was there in it?” asked his employer.

“Thirty-three dollars,” answered Harry.

“Whew! that’s a good deal of money to lose. I shouldn’t want to lose so much myself. When did you have it last?”

Harry told his story, Mr. Leavitt listening attentively

“And you came right home?”

“Yes.”

“Alone.”

“No; Luke Harrison came with me.”

“Are you two thick together?”

“Not at all. He doesn’t like me, and I don’t fancy him.”

“What was he talking about?”

“He wanted me to join a sleighing party.”

“What did you say?”

“I said I couldn’t afford it. Then he charged me with being a miser, as he often does.”

“Did he come all the way home with you?”

“No; he left me at Deacon Brewster’s. He said he must go back to the store.”

“There is something queer about this,” said Mr. Leavitt, shrewdly. “Do you want my advice?”

“Yes; I wish you would advise me, for I don’t know what to do.”

“Then go to the store at once. Ask, but without attracting any attention, if Luke came back there after leaving you. Then ask Mr. Meade, the storekeeper, whether he noticed you put back your pocketbook.”

“But I know I did.”

“Then it will be well to say nothing about it, at least publicly. If you find that Luke’s excuse was false, and that he did not go back, go at once to his boarding place, and ask him whether he saw you drop the pocketbook. You might have dropped it and he picked it up.”

“Suppose he says no?”

“Then we must watch whether he seems flush of money for the next few days.”

This seemed to Harry good advice. He retraced his steps to the store, carefully looking for the lost pocketbook. But of course, it was not to be seen and he entered the store troubled and out of spirits.

“I thought you went home, Harry,” said Frank Heath.

“You see I am here again,” said our hero.

“Time to shut up shop,” said Mr. Meade, the storekeeper. “You boys will have to adjourn till to-morrow.”

“Where’s Luke Harrison?” asked Frank Heath.

“Didn’t he go out with you?”

“Yes; but he left me some time ago. He came back here, didn’t he?”

“No; he hasn’t been here since.”

“He spoke of coming,” said Harry. “He wanted me to join that sleighing party.”

“Good night, boys,” said the storekeeper, significantly.

They took the hint and went out. Their way lay in different directions, and they parted company.

“Now I must call on Luke,” said Harry to himself.”

“I hope he found the pocketbook. He wouldn’t be wicked enough to keep it.”

But he was not quite so sure of this as he would like to have been. He felt almost sick as he thought of the possibility that he might never recover the money which he had saved so gladly, though with such painful economy. It represented the entire cash earnings of eleven weeks.

Luke Harrison boarded with a Mr. Glenham, a carpenter, and it was at his door that Harry knocked.

“Is Luke Harrison at home?” he inquired of Mrs. Glenham, who opened the door.

“At home and abed, I reckon,” she replied.

“I know it’s late, Mrs. Glenham, but it is about a matter of importance that I wish to see Luke.”

“I reckon it’s about the sleighing party.”

“No, it is quite another thing. I won’t stay but minute.”

“Well, I suppose you can go up.”

Harry went upstairs and knocked. Ordinarily, Luke would have been asleep, for generally he sank to sleep five minutes after his head touched the pillow; but to-night the excitement of his dishonest intention kept him awake, and he started uneasily when he heard the knock.

“Who’s there?” he called out from the bed.

“It’s I–Harry Walton.”

“He’s come about that pocketbook,” thought Luke.

“I’m in bed,” he answered.

“I want to see you a minute, on a matter of importance.”

“Come to-morrow morning.”

“I must see you now.”

“Oh, well, come in, if you must,” said Luke.

CHAPTER XX

“You seem to be in an awful hurry to see me,” said Luke, grumbling. “I was just getting to sleep.”

“I’ve lost my pocketbook. Have you seen it?”

“Have I seen it? That’s a strange question. How should I have seen it?”

“I lost it on the way from the store to the house.”

“Do you mean to charge me with taking it?”

“I haven’t said anything of the sort,” said Harry; “but you were with me, and I thought you might have seen it drop out of my pocket.”

“Did you drop it out of your pocket?”

“I can’t think of any other way I could lose it.”

“Of course I haven’t seen it. Was that all you woke me up about?”

“Is that all? You talk as if it was a little thing losing thirty-three dollars.”

“Thirty-three dollars!” repeated Luke, pretending to be surprised. “You don’t mean to say you’ve lost all that?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well,” said Luke, yawning, “I wish I could help you; but I can’t. Good night.”

“Good night,” said Harry, turning away disappointed.

“What success, Harry?” inquired Mr. Leavitt, who had deferred going to bed in order to hear his report.

“None at all,” answered Harry.

“Is there anything by which you can identify any of the bills?”

“Yes,” answered Harry, with sudden recollection, “I dropped a penful of ink on one of the bills–a two-dollar note–just in the center. I had been writing a letter, and the bill lay on the table near by.”

“Good!” said Mr. Leavitt. “Now, supposing Luke has taken this money, how is he likely to spend it?”

“At the tailor’s, most likely. He is always talking about new clothes; but lately he hasn’t had any because Merrill shut down on him on account of an unpaid bill.”

“Then you had better see Merrill and ask him to take particular notice of any bills that Luke pays him.”

“Innocence must often be suspected, or guilt would never be detected. It is the only way to get on the track of the missing bills.”

Harry saw that this was reasonable and decided to call on Merrill the next day.

“Do you think Luke took it?” asked the tailor.

“I don’t know. I don’t like to suspect him.”

“I haven’t much opinion of Luke. He owes me a considerable bill.”

“He prefers your clothes to Hayden’s, and if he has the money, he will probably come here and spend some of it.”

“Suppose he does, what do you want me to do?”

“To examine the bills he pays you, and if you find an ink spot on the center of one let me know.”

“I understand. I think I can manage it.”

“My money was mostly in ones and twos.”

“That may help you. I will bear it in mind.”

Two days afterwards, Luke Harrison met Harry.

“Have you found your money, Walton?” he asked.

“No, and I am afraid I never shall,” said our hero.

“What do you think has become of it?”

“That’s just what I would like to find out,” said Harry.

“The only thing you can do is to grin and bear it.”

“And be more careful next time.”

“Of course.”

“He’s given it up,” said Luke to himself. “I think I can venture to use some of it now. I’ll go round to Merrill’s and see what he’s got in the way of pants.”

Accordingly he strolled into Merrill’s that evening.

“Got any new cloths in, Merrill?” asked Luke.

“I’ve got some new cloths for pants.”

“That’s just what I want.”

“You’re owing me a bill.”

“How much is it?”

“Some over thirty dollars.”

“I can’t pay it all, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll pay you fifteen dollars on account, and you can make me a new pair of pants. Will that answer?”

“All right. Of course I’d rather you’d pay the whole bill. Still I want to be accommodating.”

“Let me look at your cloths.”

The tailor displayed a variety of cloths, one of which suited Luke’s fancy.

“Here’s fifteen dollars,” he said. “Just credit me with that on the bill, will you?”

“All right,” said Merrill.

He proceeded to count the money, which consisted of consisted of ones and twos, and instantly carne to the conclusion that it was from Harry’s missing pocketbook, particularly as he came upon the identical note with the blot in the center.

Unaware of the manner in which he had betrayed himself, Luke felt quite complacent over his reestablished credit, and that without any expense to himself.

“Have you got any new cloth for coats?” he asked.

“I shall have some new cloths in next week.”

“All right. When will you have the pants done?”

“You may call round in two or three days.”

“Just make’em in style, Merrill, and I’ll send all my friends here.”

“Very well. I hope you’ll soon be able to pay me the balance of my bill.”

“Oh, yes, to be sure. You won’t have to wait long.”

He swaggered out of the shop, lighting a cigar.

“My young friend,” soliloquized the tailor, watching his exit, “you have walked into my trap neatly. Colman,”–turning to a young man present at the time–“did you see Luke Harrison pay me this money?”

“Yes; to be sure.”

“Do you see this blot on one of the bills–a two?”

“Yes; What of it?”

“Nothing. I only called your attention to it.”

“I don’t see what there is strange about that. Anybody might get ink on a bill, mightn’t he?”

“Of course.”

Colman was puzzled. He could not understand why he should have been called upon to notice such a trifle; but the tailor had his reasons. He wanted to be able to prove by Colman’s testimony that the blotted bill was actually put into his hands by Luke Harrison.

CHAPTER XXI

In the Tailor’s power

“Is that the bill you spoke of, Walton?” asked the tailor, on Harry’s next visit to the shop.

“Yes,” said Harry, eagerly. “Where did you get it?”

“You can guess.”

“From Luke Harrison?”

“Yes; he paid me, last evening, fifteen dollars on account. This note was among those he paid me.”

“It is mine. I can swear to it.”

“The rest of the money was yours, no doubt.”

“What shall I do, Mr. Merrill?”

“The money is yours, and I will restore it to you after seeing Luke. I will send for him to be here at seven o’clock this evening.”

As Luke was at work in his shop that day, the tailor’s boy came in with a note.

Luke opened it and read as follows:

“Will you call at my shop at seven this evening about the pants you ordered?

“Henry Merrill.”

“Tell your father I’ll come,” said Luke.

At seven o’clock he entered the tailor’s shop once more.

“Well, Merrill, what do you want to see me about?” he asked. “Have you cut the pants?”

“No.”

“You haven’t? I wanted you to go to work on them at once.”

“I know; but it was necessary to see you first.”

“Why–didn’t you take the measure right?”

“Luke,” said Mr. Merrill, looking him steadily in the eye, “where did you get that money you paid me?”

“Where did I get the money?” repeated Luke, flushing up. “What makes you ask me that question? Isn’t it good money? ‘Tisn’t counterfeit, is it?”

“I asked you where you got it from?”

“From the man I work for, to be sure,” said Luke.

“Will you swear to that?”

“I don’t see the use. Can’t you take my word?”

“I may as well tell you that Harry Walton recognizes one of the bills as a part of the money he lost.”

“He does, does he?” said Luke, boldly. “That’s all nonsense. Bills all look alike.”

“This one has a drop of ink just in the center. He remembered having dropped a blot upon it.”

“What have I to do with that?”

“It is hardly necessary to explain. The evening he lost the money you were with him. Two days after, you pay me one of the bills which he lost,” said the tailor.

“Do you mean to say I stole ’em?” demanded Luke.

“It looks like it, unless you can explain how you came by the blotted bill.”

“I don’t believe I paid you the bill. Very likely it was some one else.”

“I thought you would say that, so I called Colman’s attention to it. However, if your employer admits paying you the bills, of course you are all right.”

Luke remembered very well that he was paid in fives, and that such an appeal would do him no good.

“Does Walton know this?” he asked, sinking into a chair, and wiping the perspiration from his brow.

“Yes; he suspected you.”

“I’d like to choke him!” said Luke, fiercely.” The miserly scoundrel!”

“It seems to me he is justified in trying to recover his money. What have you done with the rest of it?”

“Tell me what will be done to me,” said Luke, sullenly.

“I didn’t steal it. I only picked it up when he dropped it. He deserves to lose it, for being so careless.”

“Why didn’t you tell him you had found it?”

“I meant to give it to him after a while. I only wanted to keep it long enough to frighten him.”

“That was dangerous, particularly as you used it.”

“I meant to give him back other money.”

“I don’t think that excuse will avail you in court.”

“Court of justice!” repeated Luke, turning pale.

“He won’t have me taken up–will he?”

“He will unless you arrange to restore all the money.”

“I’ve paid you part of it.”

“That I shall hand over to him. Have you the rest?”

“I’ve spent a few dollars. I’ve got eight dollars left.”

“You had better give it to me.”

Reluctantly, Luke drew out his pocketbook and passed the eight dollars to Mr. Merrill.

“Now when will you pay the rest?”

“In a few weeks,” said Luke.

“That won’t do. How much do you earn a week?”

“Fifteen dollars.”

“How much do you pay for board?”

“Four dollars.”

“Then you will be able to pay eleven dollars at the end of this week.”

“I can’t get along without money, said Luke.

“You will have to till you pay back the money, unless you prefer appearing before a court of justice.”

Luke was just going out when the tailor called him back.

“I believe you owe me thirty dollars. When are you going to pay it?”

“I can’t pay it yet a while,” said Luke.

“I think you had better,” said the tailor quietly.

“I’ll pay you as soon as I can.”

“You make eleven dollars a week over and above your board and spend it on drink, billiards and fast horses. You are fully able to pay for your clothes promptly and I advise you to do it.”

“I’ll pay you as soon as I can.”

“If you neglect to do it, I may as well tell you that I shall let it be known that you stole Walton’s pocketbook.”

An expression of alarm overspread Luke’s face, and he hastily made the required promise. But he added, “I didn’t steal it. I only found it.”

“The whole story would be told, and people might think as they pleased. But it is much better for you to avoid all this by paying your bills.”

Luke Harrison left the tailor’s shop in a very unhappy and disgusted frame of mind.

“If I had the sense to wait till it blew over,” he said to himself, “I should have escaped all this: I didn’t think Merrill would act so mean. Now I’m in for paying his infernal bill besides. It’s too bad.”

Just then he came upon Frank Heath, who hailed him.

“Luke, come and play a game of billiards.”

“If you’ll promise not to beat me. I haven’t got a cent of money.”

“You haven’t? What have you done with those bills you had this afternoon?”

“I’ve paid ’em over to Merrill,” said Luke, hesitating.

“He was in a deuced stew about his bill.”

“When are your pants going to be ready?”

“I don’t know,” said Luke, with a pang of sorrow.

“Merrill’s making them, isn’t he?”

“He says he won’t till I pay the whole bill.”

“Seems to me your credit ain’t very good, Luke.”

“It’s good enough, be he’s hard up for money. I guess he’s going to fail. If you’ll lend me a couple of dollars, I’ll go around and have a game.”

Frank Heath laughed.

“You’ll have to go to some one else, Luke,” he said.

Luke passed a disagreeable evening. Cut off by his want of money from his ordinary amusements, and depressed by the thought that things would be no better till he had paid his bills, he lounged about, feeling that he was a victim of ill luck. It did not occur to him that that ill luck was of his own bringing.

CHAPTER XXII

THE COMING OF THE MAGICIAN

The week passed and Luke carefully avoided our hero going so far as to cross the street so as not to meet him. On Saturday evening, according to his arrangement, Luke was to have paid the surplus of his wages, after meeting his board bill, to Mr. Merrill, for Harry.

But he did not go near him. On Monday, the tailor meeting him, inquired why he had not kept his agreement.

“The fact is,” said Luke,” I have been unlucky.”

“How unlucky?”

“I had my wages loose in my pocket, and managed to lose them somehow.”

“That is very singular,” said the tailor, suspiciously.

“Why is it singular?” asked Luke. “Didn’t Harry Walton lose his money?”

“You seem to have lost yours at a very convenient time.”

“It’s hard on me,” said Luke. “Owing so much, I want to pay as quick as I can, so as to have my wages to myself. Don’t you see that?”

“Where do you think you lost the money?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, said Luke.

“Well,” said Merrill, dryly, “I hope you will take better care of your wages next Saturday evening.”

“I mean to. I can’t afford to lose anymore.”

“I don’t believe, a word of what he says about losing his money,” said the tailor, privately, to Harry. “I think it’s only a trick to get rid of paying you.”

“Don’t you think he’ll pay me?” asked Harry.

“He won’t if he can help it,” was the answer. “He’s a slippery customer. I believe his money is in his pocket at this moment.”

Mr. Merrill was not quite right; but it was only as to the whereabouts of the money. It was in Luke’s trunk. He intended to run away, leaving all his creditors in the lurch. This was the “new way to pay old debts,” which occurred to Luke as much the easiest.

The next Saturday evening, Mr. Merrill waited in vain for a call from his debtor.

“What excuse will he have now?” he thought.

On Monday morning he learned that Luke had left town without acquainting anyone with his destination. It transpired, also, that he was owing at his boarding house for two weeks’ board. He was thus enabled to depart with nearly thirty dollars, for parts unknown.

“He’s a hard case,” said Mr. Merrill to Harry. “I am afraid he means to owe us for a long time to come.”

“Where do you think he is gone?” asked Harry.

“I have no idea. He has evidently been saving up money to help him out of town. Sometime we may get upon his track, and compel him to pay up.”

“That won’t do me much good,” said Harry, despondently. And then he told the tailor why he wanted the money. “Now,” he concluded,” I shan’t be able to have the money ready in time.”

“You’ll have most of it ready, won’t you?”

“I think I will.”

“I would lend you the money myself,” said the tailor, “but I’ve got a heavy payment to meet and some of my customers are slow pay, though I have not many as bad as Luke Harrison.”

“Thank you, Mr. Merrill,” said Harry. “I am as much obliged to you as if you could lend the money.”

But it is said that misfortunes never come singly. The very next day Mr. Leavitt received a message from the wholesale dealer to whom he sold his shoes, that the market was glutted and sales slow.

“I shall not want any more goods for a month or two,” the letter concluded. “I will let you know, when I more.”

Mr. Leavitt read this letter aloud in the shop.

“So it seems we are to have a vacation,” he said. “That’s the worst of the shoe trade. It isn’t steady. When it’s good everybody rushes into it, and the market soon gets overstocked. Then there’s no work for weeks.”

This was a catastrophe for which Harry was no prepared. He heard the announcement with a grave face, for to him it was a serious calamity. Twenty-three dollars were all that he had saved from the money lost and this would be increased by a dollar or two only, when he had settled up with Mr. Leavitt. If he stayed here did not obtain work, he must pay his board, and that would soon swallow up his money. Could he get work in any other shop? That was an important question.

“Do you think I can get into any other shop in town?” he inquired anxiously of Mr. Leavitt.

“You can try, Harry; but I guess you’ll find others no better off than I.”

This was not very encouraging, but Harry determined not to give up without an effort. He devoted the next day to going around among the shoe shops; but everywhere he met with unfavorable answers. Some had ready suspended. Others were about to do so.

“It seems as if all my money must go,” thought Harry, looking despondently at his little hoard. “First the ten dollars Luke Harrison stole. Then work stopped. I don’t know but it would be better for me to go home.”

But the more Harry thought of this, the less he liked it. It would be an inglorious ending to his campaign. Probably now he would not be able to carry out his plan of paying for the cow; but if his father should lose it, he might be able, if he found work, to buy him another Squire Green’s cow was not the only cow in the world and all would not be lost if he could not buy her.

“I won’t give up yet,” said Harry, pluckily. “I must expect to meet with some bad luck. I suppose everybody does. Something’ll turn up for me if I try to make it.”

This was good philosophy. Waiting passively for something to turn up is bad policy and likely to lead to disappointment; but waiting actively, ready to seize any chance that may offer, is quite different. The world is full of chances, and from such chances so seized has been based many a prosperous career.

During his first idle day, Harry’s attention was drawn to a handbill which had been posted up in the store, the post office, the tavern, and other public places in the village. It was to this effect:

“PROFESSOR HENDERSON,

“The celebrated Magician,

“Will exhibit his wonderful feats of Magic and Sleight of Hand in the Town Hall this evening, commencing at 8 o’clock. In the course of the entertainment he will amuse the audience by his wonderful exhibition of Ventriloquism, in which he is unsurpassed.

“Tickets 25 cents. Children under twelve, 15 cents.”

In a country village, where amusements are few, such entertainments occupy a far more important place than in a city, where amusements abound.

“Are you going to the exhibition, Walton?” asked Frank Heath.

“I don’t know,” said Harry.

“Better come. It’ll be worth seeing.”

In spite of his economy, our hero wanted to go.

“The professor’s stopping at the tavern. Come over, and we may see him,” said Frank.

CHAPTER XXIII

THE VENTRILOQUIST

The boys went into the public room of the tavern. In the center was a stove, around which were gathered a miscellaneous crowd, who had assembled, as usual, to hear and talk over the news of the day. At the farther end of the room was a bar, where liquor and cigars were sold. The walls of the room, which was rather low-studded, were ornamented by sundry notices and posters of different colors, with here and there an engraving of no great artistic excellence–one representing a horse race, another a steamer of the Cunard Line, and still another, the Presidents of the United States grouped together, with Washington as the central figure.

“Have a cigar, Walton?” asked Frank Heath.

“No, thank you, Frank.”

“You haven’t got so far along, hey?”

“I don’t think it would do me any good,” said Harry.

“Maybe not; but jolly comfortable on a cold night. The worst of it is, it’s mighty expensive.”

Frank walked up to the bar and bought a ten-cent cigar. He returned and sat down on a settee.

“The magician isn’t here,” said Harry.

“Hush, he is here!” said Frank, in a low voice, as the door opened, and a tall, portly man entered the room.

Professor Henderson–for it was he–walked up the bar, and followed Frank Heath’s example in the purchase of a cigar Then he glanced leisurely round the apartment. Apparently, his attention was fixed by our hero, for he walked up to him, and said: “Young man, I would like to speak to you.”

“All right, sir,” said Harry, in surprise.

“If you are not otherwise occupied, will you accompany me to my room?”

“Certainly, sir,” returned Harry, in fresh wonder.

“Perhaps he’s going to take in Walton as partner,” Frank Heath suggested to Tom Frisbie.

“I wonder what he want anyway?” said Frisbie. “Why didn’t he take you?”

“Because I’m too sharp,” said Frank. “I should see through his tricks.”

Meanwhile, Harry had entered the professor’s chamber.

“Sit down,” said the magician. “I’ll tell you what I want of you. I want you to take tickets at the door of hall to-night. Can you do it?”

“Yes, sir,” said Harry, promptly.

“It seems easy enough,” said the professor; “but not everyone can do it rapidly without making mistakes. Are you quick at figures?”

“I am usually considered so,” said our hero.

“I won’t ask whether you are honest, for you would so, of course.”

“I hope–” commenced Harry.

“I know what you are going to say; but there is no need of saying it,” interrupted the magician. “I judge from your face, which is an honest one. I have traveled about a good deal, and I am a good judge of faces.”

“You shall not be disappointed, sir.”

“I know that, in advance. Now, tell me if you are at work, or do you attend school?”

“I have been at work in a shoe shop in this village, sir.”

“Not now?”

“No, sir; business is dull, and work has given out.”

“What are you going to do next?”

“Anything by which I can earn an honest living.”

“That’s the way to talk. I’ll take you into my employ, if you have no objection to travel.”

Objection to travel! Who ever heard of a boy of fifteen who had an objection to travel?

“But will your parents consent? That is the next question. I don’t want to entice any boys away from home against their parents’ consent.”

“My parents do not live here. They live farther north, in the town of Granton.”

“Granton? I never was there. Is it a large place?”

“No, sir, it is a very small place. My father consented to have me leave home and he will have no objection to my earning my living in any honest way.”

“Well, my young friend, I can assure you that my way is an honest one, though I frankly confess I do my best to deceive the people who come to my entertainments.”

“What is it you want me to do, sir?”

“Partly what you are going to do to-night–take tickets at the door; but that is not all. I have to carry about considerable apparatus and I need help about arranging it. Sometimes, also, I need help in my experiments. I had a young man with me; but he is taken down with a fever and obliged to go home. It is not likely, as his helath is delicate, that he will care to resume his position. I must have somebody in his place. I have no doubt you will answer my purpose.”

“How much pay do you give, sir?”

“A practical question,” said the professor, smiling.

“To begin with, of course I pay traveling expenses, and I can offer you five dollars a week besides. Will that be satisfactory?”

“Yes, sir,” said Harry, his heart giving a great throb of exultation as he realized that his new business would give him two dollars week more than his work in the shop, besides being a good deal more agreeable, since it would give him a chance to see a little of the world.

“Can you start with me to-morrow morning?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then it is settled. But it is time you were at the hall. I will give you a supply of small bills and, change, as you may have to change some bills.”

He drew from his side pocket a wallet, which he placed in the hands of our hero.

“This wallet contains twenty dollars,” he said: “Of course you will bring me back that amount, in addition to what you take at the door this evening.”

“Very well, sir.”

“You can wait for me at the close of the evening, and hand me all together. Now go over to the hall, as the doors are to be open at half past seven o’clock.”

When Frank Heath and his companion went over to the Town Hall they found Harry making change.

“Hello, Walton!” said Frank. “Are you the treasurer of this concern?”

“It seems so,” said Harry.

You’ll let in your friends for nothing, won’t you?”

“Not much. I charge them double price.”

“Well here’s our money. I say, Tom, I wonder the old fellow didn’t take me instead of Walton.”

“That’s easily told. You don’t look honest enough.”

“Oh, if it comes to that, he passed over you, too, Tom.”

“He wouldn’t insult a gentleman of my dignity. Come on; there’s room on the front seat.”

Harry was kept busy till ten minutes after eight. By that time about all who intended to be present were in the hall and the magician was gratified by seeing that it was crowded. He was already well known in the village, having been in the habit of visiting it every for years and his reputation for dexterity, and especially for ventriloquism, had called out this large audience.

The professor’s tricks excited great wonder in the younger spectators. I will only dwell slightly on his ventriloquism. When he came to this part of the entertainment, he said: “Will any young gentleman assist me?”

Frank Heath immediately left his seat and took up his position beside the professor.

“Now, sir,” said the professor, “I want to ask you a question or two. Will you answer me truly?”

A gruff voice appeared to proceed from Frank’s mouth, saying: “Yes, sir.”

“Are you married, sir?”

Again the same gruff voice answered: “Yes, sir; I wish I wasn’t;” to the great delight of the small boys.

“Indeed, sir! I hope your wife doesn’t make it uncomfortable for you.”

“She licks me,” Frank appeared to answer.

“I am sorry. What does she lick you with?”

“With a broomstick.”

Frank looked foolish and there was a general laugh.

“I hope she doesn’t treat you so badly very often, sir.”

“Yes, she does, every day,” was the answer. “If she knowed I was up here telling you, she’d beat me awful.”

“In that case, sir, I won’t be cruel enough to keep you here any longer. Take my advice, sir, and get a divorce.”

“So I will, by hokey!”

And Frank, amid hearty laughter, resumed his seat, not having uttered a word, the professor being responsible for the whole conversation.

CHAPTER XXIV

Harry’s Letter

During Harry’s absence, the little household at Granton had got along about as usual. They lived from hand to mouth. It required sharp financiering to provide food and clothes for the little family.

There was one neighbor who watched their progress sharply and this was Squire Green. It will be remembered that he had bound Mr. Walton to forfeit ten dollars, if, at the end of six months, he was not prepared to pay the forty dollars and interest which he had agreed to pay for the cow. It is a proof of the man’s intense meanness that, though rich while his neighbor was poor, he was strongly in hopes that the latter would incur the forfeit and be compelled to pay it.

One morning Squire Green accosted Mr. Walton, the squire being at work in his own front yard.

“Good morning, neighbor Walton,” he said.

“Good morning, squire.”

“How is that cow a-doin’?”

“Pretty well.”

“She’s a good cow.”

“Not so good as the one I lost.”

“You’re jokin’ now, neighbor. It was my best cow. I wouldn’t have sold her except to obleege.”

“She doesn’t give as much milk as my old one.”

“Sho! I guess you don’t feed her as well as I did.”

“She fares just as well as the other one did. Of course, I don’t know how you fed her.”

“She allers had her fill when she was with me. Le’ me see, how long is it since I sold her to ye?”

Though the squire apparently asked for information, he knew the time to a day and was not likely to forget.

“It’s between four and five months, I believe.”

“Jus’so. You was to be ready to pay up at the end of six months.”

“That was the agreement.”

“You’d better be a-savin’ up for it.”

“There isn’t much chance of my saving. It’s all I can do to make both ends meet.”

“You don’t say so,” said the squire, secretly pleased.

“My farm is small and poor, and doesn’t yield much.”

“But you work out, don’t you?”

“When I get a chance. You don’t want any help, do you, squire? I might work off part of the debt that way.”

“Mebbe next spring I’d like some help.”

“That will be too late to meet my note, unless you’ll renew.”

“I’ll see about it,” said the squire, evasively. “What do you hear from that boy of yours? Is he doin’ well?”

“He’s at work in a shoe shop.”

“Does it pay well?”

“He doesn’t get much just at first.”

“Then he won’t be able to pay for the cow,” thought the squire. “That’s what I wanted to know.”

“He’d better have gone to work for me,” he said

“No, I think he will do better away from home. He will get a good trade that he can fall back upon hereafter, even if he follows some other business.”

“Wal, I never learned no trade but I’ve got along middlin’ well,” said the squire, in a complacent tone. “Farmin’s good enough for me.”

“I would say the same if I had your farm, squire. You wouldn’t exchange, would you?”

“That’s a good joke, neighbor Walton. When I make up my mind to do it. I’ll let you know.”

“What a mean old curmudgeon he is!” thought Hiram Walton, as he kept on his way to the village store. “He evidently intends to keep me to my agreement and will exact the ten dollars in case I can’t pay for the cow at the appointed time. It will be nothing but a robbery.”

This was not the day for a letter from Harry but it occurred to Mr. Walton to call at the post office. Contrary to his anticipations, a letter was handed him.

“I won’t open it till I get home,” he said to himself.

“I’ve got a letter from Harry,” he said, as he entered the house.

“A letter from Harry? It isn’t his day for writing,” said Mrs. Walton. “What does he say?”

“I haven’t opened the letter yet. Here, Tom, open and read it aloud.”

Tom opened the letter and read as follows:

“Dear Father:–I must tell you, to begin with, that I have been compelled to stop work in the shoe shop. The market is overstocked and trade has become very dull.

“Of course, I felt quite bad when Mr. Leavitt told me this, for I feared it would prevent my helping you pay for the cow, as I want so much to do. I went round to several other shops, hoping to get in, but I found it impossible. Still, I have succeeded in getting something to do that will pay me better than work in the shop. If you were to guess all day, I don’t believe you would guess what business it is. So, to relieve your suspense, I will tell you that I have engaged as assistant to Professor Henderson, the famous magician and ventriloquist and am to start to-morrow on a tour with him.”

“Assistant to a magician!” exclaimed Mrs. Walton

“What does the boy know about magic?”

“It’s a bully business,” said Tom, enthusiastically. “I only wish I was in Harry’s shoes. I’d like to travel round with a magician first-rate.”

“You’re too thick-headed, Tom,” said Marry.

“Shut up!” said Tom. “I guess I’m as smart as you, any day.”

“Be quiet, both of you!” said Mr. Walton. “Now, Tom, go on with your brother’s letter.”

Tom proceeded: “I am to take money at the door. We are going about in the southern part of the State and shall visit some towns in Massachusetts, the professor says. You know I’ve never been round any and I shall like traveling and seeing new places. Professor Henderson is very kind and I think I shall like him. He pays my traveling expenses and five dollars a week, which is nearly twice as much money as I got from Mr. Leavitt. I can’t help thinking I am lucky in getting so good a chance only a day after I lost my place in the shoe shop. I hope, yet, to be able to pay for the cow when the money comes due.

“Love to all at home.

“Harry.”

“Harry’s lucky,” said Mary. “He can get along.”

“He is fortunate to find employment at once,” said his father; “though something which he can follow steadily is better. But the pay is good and I am glad he has it.”

“How long it seems since Harry was at home,” said his mother. “I wish I could see him.”

“Yes, it would be pleasant,” said Mr. Walton; “but the boy has his own way to make, so we will be thankful that he is succeeding so well.”

CHAPTER XXV

A STRANGE COMPANION

At ten o’clock the next day, Harry presented himself at the hotel. He carried in his hand a carpetbag lent him by Mr. Leavitt, which contained his small stock of under-clothing. His outside suits he left at Mr. Leavitt’s, not wishing to be encumbered with them while traveling.

“I see you are on time,” said the professor.

“Yes, sir; I always mean to be.”

“That’s well; now if you’ll jump into my buggy with me, we will ride round to the Town Hall and take in my apparatus. I have to keep a carriage,” said the magician, as they rode along. “It saves me a great deal of trouble by making me independent of cars and stages.”

The apparatus was transferred to a trunk in the back part of the buggy and securely locked.

“Now we are all ready,” said Professor Henderson,

“Would you like to drive?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Harry, with alacrity.

“I am going to give an entertainment in Holston this evening,” said his new employer. “Were you ever there?”

“No, sir.”

“It is a smart little place and although the population is not large, I always draw a full house.”

“How far is it, sir?”

“About six miles.”

Harry was sorry it was not farther, as he enjoyed driving. His companion leaned back at his ease and talked on various subjects. He paused a moment and Harry was startled by hearing a stifled child’s voice just behind him: “Oh, let me out! Don’t keep me locked up here!”

The reins nearly fell from his hands. He turned and heard the voice apparently proceeding from the trunk.

“What’s the matter?” asked Professor Henderson.

“I thought I heard a child’s voice.”

“So you did,” said the voice again.

The truth flashed upon Harry. His companion was exerting some of his powers as a ventriloquist.

“Oh, it is you, sir,” he said, smiling.

His companion smiled.

“You are right,” he said.

“I don’t see how you can do it,” said Harry.

“Practice, my boy.”

“But practice wouldn’t make everybody a ventriloquist, would it?”

“Most persons might become ventriloquists, though in an unequal degree. I often amuse myself by making use of it for playing practical jokes upon people.

“Do you see that old lady ahead?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll offer her a ride. If she accepts, you’ll see sport. I shall make you talk but you must be careful to say nothing yourself.”

A few rods farther on, they overtook an old woman.

“Good morning, ma’am” said the professor. “Won’t you get in and ride? It’s easier riding than walking.”

The old women scanned his countenance and answered: “Thank you, sir, I’m obleeged to ye. I don’t mind if I do.”

She was assisted into the carriage and sat at one end of the seat, Harry being in the middle.

“I was going to see my darter, Nancy,” said the old women. “Mrs. Nehemiah Babcock her name is. Mebbe you know her husband.”

“I don’t think I do,” said the professor.

“He’s got a brother in Boston in the dry goods business. Mebbe you’ve been at his store.”

“Mebbe I have.”

“I ginerally call to see my darter–her name is Nancy–once a week; but it’s rather hard for me to walk, now I’m getting’ on in years.”

“You’re most eighty, ain’t you?” appeared to proceed from Harry’s mouth. Our hero’s face twitched and he had hard work to keep from laughing.

“Indeed, I’m not!” said the old lady, indignantly.

“I’m only sixty-seven and folks say I don’t look more’n sixty,” and the old lady looked angrily at Harry.

“You must excuse him, ma’am,” said the professor, soothingly. “He is no judge of a lady’s age.”

“I should think not, indeed.”

“Indeed, madam, you are very young looking.”

The old lady was pacified by this compliment but looked askance at Harry.

“Is he your son?”

“No, ma’am.”

The old lady sniffed, as if to say, “So much the better for you.”

“Are you travelin’ far?” asked the old lady.

“What do you want to know for?” Harry appeared to ask.

“You’re a sassy boy!” exclaimed the old woman.

“Harry,” said Professor Henderson, gravely, “how often have I told you not to be so unmannerly?”

“He orter be whipped,” said the old lady. “Ef I had a boy that was so sassy, I’d larn him manners!”

“I’m glad I ain’t your boy,” Harry appeared to reply.

“I declare I won’t ride another step if you let him insult me so,” said the old woman, glaring at our hero.

Professor Henderson caught her eye and significantly touched his forehead, giving her to understand that Harry was only “half-witted.”

“You don’t say so” she ejaculated, taking the hint at once. “How long’s he been so?”

“Ever since he was born.”

“Ain’t you afraid to have him drive?”

“Oh, not at all. He understands horses as well as I do.”

“What’s his name?”

Before the professor’s answer could be heard, Harry appeared to rattle off the extraordinary name: “George Washington Harry Jefferson Ebenezer Popkins.”

“My gracious! Has he got all them names?”

“Why not? What have you got to say about it, old women?” said the same voice.

“Oh, I ain’t got no objection,” said the old woman.

“You may have fifty-‘leven names ef you want to.”

“I don’t interfere with his names,” said the professor.

“If he chooses to call himself–“

“George Washington Harry Jefferson Ebenezer Popkins,” repeated the voice, with great volubility.

“If he chooses to call himself by all those names, I’m sure I don’t care. How far do you go, ma’am?”

“About quarter of a mile farther.”

The professor saw that he must proceed to his final joke.

“Let me out! Don’t keep me locked up here!” said the child’s voice, from behind, in a pleading tone.

“What’s that?” asked the startled old lady.

“What’s what?” asked the professor, innocently.

“That child that wants to get out.”

“You must have dreamed it, my good lady.”

“No, there ’tis agin’,” said the old lady, excited.

“It’s in the trunk behind you,” said the assumed voice, appearing to proceed from our hero.

“So ’tis,” said the old lady, turning halfway round.

“Oh, I shall die! Let me out! Let me out!”

“He’s locked up his little girl in the trunk,” Harry seemed to say.

“You wicked man, let her out this minute,” said the old lady, very much excited. “Don’t you know no better than to lock up a child where she can’t get no air?”

“There is no child in the trunk, I assure you,” said Professor Henderson, politely.

“Don’t you believe him,” said Harry’s voice.

“Do let me out, father!” implored the child’s voice

“If you don’t open the trunk, I’ll have you took up for murder,” said the old lady.

“I will open it to show you are mistaken.”

The professor got over the seat, and, opening the trunk, displayed its contents to the astonished old lady.

“I told you that there was no child there,” he said; “but you would not believe me.”

“Le’ me out,” gasped the old woman. “I’d rather walk. I never heerd of such strange goin’s on afore.”

“If you insist upon it, madam, but I’m sorry to lose your company. Take this with you and read it.”

He handed her one of his bills, which she put in her pocket, saying she couldn’t see to read it.

When they were far enough off to make it safe, Harry gave vent to his mirth, which he had restrained till this at difficulty and laughed long and loud.

CHAPTER XXVI

PAGES FROM THE PAST

“What will the old lady think of you?” said Harry.

“She will have a very bad opinion till she puts on her specs and read the bill. That will explain all. I shouldn’t be surprised to see her at my entertainment.”

“I wonder if she’ll recognize me,” said Harry.

“No doubt; as soon as she learns with whom she rode, she’ll be very curious to come and see me perform.”

“How old were you when you began to be a ventriloquist?”

“I was eighteen. I accidentally made the discovery, and devoted considerable time to perfecting myself in it before acquainting anyone with it. That idea came later. You see when I was twenty-one, with a little property which I inherited from my uncle, I went into business for myself; but I was young and inexperienced in management, and the consequence was, that in about two years I failed. I found it difficult to get employment as a clerk, business being very dull at the time. While uncertain what to do, one of my friends, to whom I had communicated my power, induced me to give me a public entertainment, combining with it a few tricks of magic, which I had been able to pick up from books. I succeeded so well my vocation in life became Professor Henderson.”

“It must be great fun to be a ventriloquist.”

“So I regarded it at first. It may not be a very high vocation but I make the people laugh and so I regard myself as a public benefactor. Indeed, I once did an essential service to a young man by means of my ventriloquism.”

“I should like very much to hear the story.”

“I will tell you. One day, a young man, a stranger, came to me and introduced himself under the name of Paul Dabney. He said that I might, if I would, do him a great service. His father had died the year previous, leaving a farm and other property to the value of fifteen thousand dollars. Of course, being as only son, he expected that this would be left to himself, or, at least, the greater part of it. Conceive his surprise, therefore, when the will came to be read, to find that the entire property was left to his Uncle Jonas, his father brother, who, for three years past, had been a member of the family. Jonas had never prospered in life, and his brother, out of pity, had offered him an asylum on his farm. He had formerly been a bookkeeper and was an accomplished penman.

“The will was so extraordinary–since Paul and his father had always been on perfectly good terms–that the young man was thunderstruck. His uncle expressed hypocritical surprise at the nature of the will.

“‘I don’t believe my father made that will,’ exclaimed Paul, angrily.

“‘What do you mean by that?’ demanded the uncle.

“His anger made Paul think that he had hit upon the truth, particularly as his uncle was an adroit penman.

“He carefully examined the will; but the writing so closely resembled his father’s that he could see no difference. The witnesses were his Uncle Jonas and a hired man, who, shortly after witnessing the signature, had been discharged and had disappeared from the neighborhood. All this excited Paul’s suspicions.

“His uncle offered him a home on the farm; but positively refused to give him any portion of the property.

“‘I sympathize with you,’ I said at the conclusion of Paul’s story; ‘but how can I help you?’

“‘I will tell you, sir,’ he replied. ‘You must know that my Uncle Jonas is very superstitious. I mean, through your help, to play upon his fears and thus induce him to give up the property to me.’

“With this he unfolded his plan and I agreed to help him. His uncle lived ten miles distant. I procured a laborer’s disguise and the morning after–Paul having previously gone back–I entered the yard of the farmhouse. The old man was standing outside, smoking a pipe.

“‘Can you give me work?’ I asked.

“‘What kind of work?’ inquired Jonas.

“‘Farm work,’ I answered.

“‘How much do you want?’

“‘Eight dollars a month.’

“‘I’ll give you six,’ he said.

“‘That’s too little.’

“‘It’s the most I’ll give you.’

“‘Then I’ll take,’ I replied, and was at once engaged.

“Delighted to get me so cheap, the sordid old man asked me no troublesome questions. I knew enough of farm work to get along pretty well and not betray myself.

“That night I concealed myself in the old man’s apartment without arousing his suspicions, Paul helping me. After he had been in bed about twenty minutes, I thought it time to begin. Accordingly I uttered a hollow groan.

“‘Eh! What’s that?’ cried the old man, rising in bed.

“‘I am the spirit of your dead brother,’ I answered, throwing my voice near the bed.

“‘What do you want?’ he asked, his teeth chattering.

“‘You have cheated Paul out of his property.’

“‘Forgive me!’ he cried, terror-stricken.

“‘Then give him back the property.’

“‘The whole?’ he groaned.

“‘Yes, the whole.’

“‘Are–are you really my brother?’

“‘I will give you this proof. Unless you do as I order you, in three days you will be with me.’

“‘What, dead?’ he said, shuddering.

“‘Yes,’ I answered in sepulchral a tone as possible.

“‘Are–are you sure of it?’

“‘If you doubt it, disobey me.’

“‘I’ll do it, but–don’t come again.’

“‘Be sure you do it then.’

“I ceased to speak, being tired, and escaped as soon as I could. But the battle was not yet over. The next day gave Jonas courage. Afternoon came and he had done nothing. He was with me in the field when I threw a hollow voice, which seemed to be close to his ear. I said, ‘Obey, or in three days you die.’

“He turned pale as a sheet and asked me if I heard anything. I expressed surprise and this confirmed him in his belief of the ghostly visitation. He went to the house, sent for a lawyer and transferred the entire property to his nephew. The latter made him a present of a thousand dollars and so the affair ended happily. Paul paid me handsomely for my share in the trick and the next day I made an excuse for leaving the farm.”

“Did the old man ever discover your agency in the affair, Professor Henderson?”

“Never. He is dead now and my friend Paul is happily married, and has a fine family. His oldest boy is named after me. But here we are in Holston.”

CHAPTER XXVII

A MYSTIFYING PERFORMANCE

The people of Holston turned out in large numbers. Among the first to appear was the old lady whom the professor had taken up on his way over.

“You’re the boy that was so sassy to me this mormin’,” she said, peering at Harry through her spectacles.

“I didn’t say a word to you,” said Harry.

“I’m afraid you’re tellin’ fibs. I heerd you.”

“It was the professor. He put the words in my mouth.”

“Well, come to think on’t the voice was different from yours. Then there wa’n’t nobody in the trunk?”

“No, ma’am,” said Harry, smiling.

“It’s wonderful, I declare for’t. This is my darter, Mrs. Nehemiah Babcock,” continued the old lady. “Nancy, this is the ventriloquer’s boy. I thought he was sassy to me this mornin’; but he says he didn’t speak a word. How much is to pay?” said the old lady.

“I won’t charge you anything,” said Harry. “Professor Henderson told me, if you came to let you in free, and any of your family.”

“Really, now, that’s very perlite of the professor,” said the old lady. “He’s a gentleman if ever there was one. Do you hear, Nancy, we can go in without payin’ a cent. That’s all on, account of your marm’s being acquainted with the professor. I’m glad I come.”

The old lady and her party entered the hall, and being early, secured good seats. Tom, her grandson, was glad to be so near, as he was ambitious to assist the professor in case volunteers were called for.

“Will any young gentleman come forward and assist me in the next trick?” asked the professor, after a while.

Tom started from his seat. His grandmother tried to seize him by the coat but he was too quick for her.

“Oh, let him go,” said his mother. “He won’t come to any harm.”

“Is this your first appearance as a magician?” asked the professor.

“Yes, sir,” answered Tom, with a grin.

“Very good. I will get you to help me, but you mustn’t tell anybody how the tricks are done.”

“No, sir, I won’t.”

“As I am going trust you with a little money, I want to ask you whether you are strictly honest.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I am glad to hear it. Do you see this piece of gold?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What is its value?”

“Ten dollars,” answered Tom, inspecting it.

“Very good. I want you hold it for me. I give you warning that I mean to make it pass out of you hand.”

“I don’t think you can do it, sir.”

“Well, perhaps not. You look like a pretty sharp customer. It won’t be easy to fool you.”

“You bet.”

“Nancy,” whispered the old lady to her daughter. “I hope you don’t allow Tom to talk so.”

“Look, mother, see want he’s going to do.”

“What I propose to do,” said the professor, “is to make that coin pass into the box on the table. I may not be able to do it, as the young gentleman is on his guard. However, I will try. Presto, change!”

“It didn’t go,” said Tom. “I’ve got it here.”

“Have you? Suppose you open your hand.”

Tom opened his hand.

“Well, what have you got? Is it the gold piece?”

“No sir,” said Tom, astonished; “it’s a cent.”

“Then, sir, all I can say is, you have treated me badly. In order to prevent my getting the gold piece into the box, you changed it into a cent.”

“No, I didn’t,” said Tom.

“Then perhaps I have succeeded, after all. The fact is, I took out the gold piece and put a penny in its place, so that you might not know the difference. Now here is the key of that box. Will you unlock it?”

Tom unlocked it, only to find another box inside. In fact, it was a perfect nest of boxes. In the very last of all was found the gold coin.

“It’s very strange you didn’t feel it go out of your hand,” said the professor.

“I am afraid you are not quick enough to make a magician. Can you fire a pistol?”

“Yes, sir,” said Tom.

“Will any lady lend me a ring?” asked the professor.

One was soon found

“I will load the pistol,” said the professor, “and put the ring in with the rest of the charge. It appears to be rather too large. I shall have to hammer it down.”

He brought down a hammer heavily upon the ring and soon bent it sufficiently to get it into the pistol.

“Now, sir,” he said, “take the pistol, and stand off there. All right, sir. When I give the word, I want you to fire. One, two, three!”

Tom fired, his grandmother uttering a half suppressed shriek at the report. When the smoke cleared away, the professor was holding the ring between his thumb and finger, quite uninjured.

Professor Henderson’s attention had been drawn to his companion of the morning. He observed that she had taken off her bonnet. He went up to her, and said, politely, “Madam, will you kindly lend me your bonnet?”

“Massy sakes, what do you want of it?”

“I won’t injure it, I assure you.”

“You may take it, ef you want to,” said the old lady; “but be keerful and don’t bend it.”

“I will be very careful; but, madam,” he said, in seeming surprise, “what have you got in it?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“You are mistaken. See there, and there, and there”; and he rapidly drew out three onions, four turnips, and a couple of potatoes. “Really, you must have thought you were going to market.”

“They ain’t mine,” gasped the old lady.

“Then it’s very strange how they got into your bonnet. And–let me see–here’s an egg, too.”

“I never see sich doin’s.”

“Granny, I guess a hen made her nest in your bonnet,” whispered Tom.

The old lady shook her head in helpless amazement.

CHAPTER XXVII

An unexpected payment

A week later Harry reached a brisk manufacturing place which I will call Centreville. He assisted the professor during the afternoon to get ready the hall for his evening performance and, at half past five, took his seat at the supper table in the village hotel.

Just as Harry began to eat, he lifted his eyes, and started in surprise as he recognized, in his opposite neighbor, Luke Harrison, whose abrupt departure without paying his debts the reader will remember. Under the circumstances, it will not be wondered at that our hero’s look was not exactly cordial. As for Luke, he was disagreeably startled at Harry’s sudden appearance. Not knowing his connection with Professor Henderson, he fancied that our hero was in quest of him and not being skilled in the law, felt a little apprehension as to what course he might take. It was best, he concluded to conciliate him.

“How are you, Walton?” he said.

“I am well,” said Harry, coldly.

“How do you happen to be in this neighborhood?”

“On business,” said Harry, briefly.

Luke jumped to the conclusion that the business related to him and, conscious of wrong-doing, felt disturbed.

“I’m glad to see you,” he said. “It seems pleasant to see an old acquaintance”–he intended to say “friend.”

“You left us rather suddenly,” said Harry.

“Why, yes,” said Luke, hesitating. “I had reasons. I’ll tell you about it after supper.”

As Harry rose from the table, Luke joined him.

“Come upstairs to my room, Walton,” he said, “and have a cigar.”

“I’ll go upstairs with you; but I don’t smoke.”

“You’d better learn. It’s a great comfort.”

“Do you board here?”

“Yes. I found I shouldn’t have to pay any more than at a boarding house and the grub’s better. Here’s my room. Walk in.”

He led the way into a small apartment on the top floor.

“This is my den,” he said. “There isn’t but one chair; but I’ll sit on the bed. When did you reach town?”

“About noon”

“Are you going to stop long?” asked Luke.

“I shall stay here till I get through with my errand,” answered Harry, shrewdly; for he saw what Luke thought, and it occurred to him that he might turn it to advantage.

Luke looked a little uneasy.

“By the way, Walton,” he said, “I believe I owe you a little money.”

“Yes. I believe so.”

“I’m sorry I can’t pay you the whole of it. It costs considerable to live, you know; but I’ll pay part.”

“Here are five dollars,” he said. “I’ll pay you the rest as soon as I can–in a week or two.”

Harry took the bank note with secret self-congratulation, for he had given up the debt as bad, and never expected to realize a cent of it.

“I am glad to get it,” he said. “I have a use for all my money. Are you working in this town?”

“Yes. The shoe business is carried on here considerably. Are you still working for Mr. Leavitt?”

“No; I’ve left him.”

“What are you doing, then?”

“I’m traveling with Professor Henderson.”

“What, the magician?”

“Yes.”

“And is that what brought you to Centreville?”

“Yes.”

Luke whistled.

“I thought–” he began.