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Title: Brave Tom - The Battle That Won
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Brave Tom - The Battle That Won" ***

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[Illustration: "Pull up; I'm all right."]



_Brave and Honest Series. No. 1_



Brave Tom

Or

The Battle That Won

By

Edward S. Ellis

Author of "River And Wilderness" Series, "Log Cabin" Series, "Honest Ned,"
"Righting The Wrong," Etc.

Illustrated



1894



Chapter I.



On a certain summer day, a few years ago, the little village of
Briggsville, in Pennsylvania, was thrown into a state of excitement, the
like of which was never known since the fearful night, a hundred years
before, when a band of red men descended like a cyclone upon the little
hamlet with its block-house, and left barely a dozen settlers alive to
tell the story of the visitation to their descendants.

Tom Gordon lived a mile from Briggsville with his widowed mother and his
Aunt Cynthia, a sister to his father, who had died five years before.

The boy had no brother or sister; and as he was bright, truthful,
good-tempered, quick of perception, and obedient, it can be well
understood that he was the pride and hope of his mother and aunt, whose
circumstances were of the humblest nature. He attended the village school,
where he was the most popular and promising of the threescore pupils
under the care of the crabbed Mr. Jenkins. He was as active of body as
mind, and took the lead among boys of his own age in athletic sports and
feats of dexterity.

One summer day the village of Briggsville blazed out in black and red and
white, every available space being covered with immense posters, which in
flaming scenes and gigantic type announced the coming of "Jones's & Co.'s
Great Moral Menagerie and Transcontinental Circus, on its triumphal tour
through the United States and Canada."

Naturally a tremendous excitement set in among the boys, who began
hoarding their pennies and behaving with supernatural propriety, so that
nothing should interfere with the treat, which in exquisite enjoyment can
never be equaled by anything that could come to them in after-life.

Tom Gordon had never yet seen the inside of a circus and menagerie; and as
his mother promised him that the enjoyment should be his, it is impossible
to describe his state of mind for the days and nights preceding the visit
of the grand aggregation, the like of which (according to the overwhelming
posters) the world had never known before. He studied the enormous
pictures, with their tigers, bears, leopards, and panthers, the size of a
meeting-house; their elephants of mountainous proportions, and the daring
acrobats, contortionists, and performers, whose feats made one hold one's
breath while gazing in awe at their impossible performances. The lad
dreamed of them at night, talked about them through the day, and discussed
with his most intimate friends the project of forming a circus of their
own when they became bigger and older. The latter project, it may be
added, owing to unforeseen obstacles, never assumed definite form.

But alas! this is a world of disappointment. On the morning of the circus
Tom was seized with a violent chill, which almost shook him out of his
shoes. He tried with might and main to master it; for he well knew that if
he did not, his visit to the wonderful show must be postponed
indefinitely. He strove like a hero, and was actually sick several hours
before the watchful eyes of his mother and aunt discovered his plight. The
moment came when he could hold out no longer, with his teeth rattling like
castanets, and his red face so hot that it was painful to the touch. Since
the performance did not open until two o'clock in the afternoon, he did
not as yet abandon all hope.

His mother and aunt sympathized with him; but although he rallied to a
great extent from his illness, they could not give consent for him to
leave the house. He partook of refreshment, and left his bed at noon. At
two o'clock he was able to sit in the chair by the window, with his fever
greatly abated, and an hour later he was as free from all traces of the
ague as you or I.

But it was then too late to go to the circus. The disappointment was a
sore one, but the lad stood it like the really brave fellow he was. He
swallowed the lump in his throat, and smiled as he said to his aunt,--

"When the circus comes again, I don't think I'll have a chill."

"And you shall see it, if you are alive then,--of that be assured."

The day was one of the most pleasant and balmy of the season, and Tom
walked out of the house, leaned on the gate, and looked up and down the
highway.

Suddenly he observed a span of horses coming on a gallop, while the driver
of the open wagon was lashing them with his whip and urging them to still
greater speed.

"They aren't running away," mused the astonished boy; "for, if they were,
the man wouldn't be trying to make them run faster. It's Mr. MacDowell! I
never saw him drive faster than a walk before; something dreadful must
have happened."

As Mr. MacDowell caught sight of the boy, and came opposite, he shouted
something, and with an expression of terror glanced around and pointed
with his whip behind him. The furious rattle of the wagon prevented Tom's
catching the words, and the terrified farmer did not repeat them, but
lashed his team harder than ever, vanishing in a cloud of dust raised by
his own wheels.

"He must be crazy," said Tom, unable to think of any other explanation of
the old man's frantic behavior.

The lad stood with his head turned toward the cloud of dust, wondering and
speculating over the strange affair, when hurried footsteps caused him to
turn quickly and look again in the direction of the village.

This time it was Jim Travers, who was panting from his running, and whose
face was a picture of consternation, equal to that of Farmer MacDowell.

"What's the matter, Jim?" asked Tom as his schoolmate reached him.

"O Tom, ain't it awful?" gasped the new arrival, coming to a halt, still
panting, and casting affrighted glances in the direction of Briggsville.

"Ain't _what_ awful?"

"Gracious! hain't you heard the news? I thought everybody knowed it."

And the tired boy took off his hat and rubbed his sleeve across his
steaming forehead, as though his expression of surprise at Tom's ignorance
communicated of itself the news to him. Tom, as may be supposed, was on
needles; for, as yet, he had not received the first hint of the
occurrence, which certainly must have been of a stirring nature.

"Sam Harper, Jack Habersham, and Bill Dunham--_all killed_ before any one
could help 'em! Did you ever hear of anything like it?" continued Jim.

"I haven't heard of _that_ yet. I don't know what you're talking about,
Jim; if you can't tell me, why, shut up!"

"So you hain't heard the news? I forgot; it scared me almost to death. I
thought everybody knowed it. I must hurry home."

And the bewildered youngster was on the point of dashing off again, after
partially recovering his wind, when he seemed to awaken to the fact that
he owed something in the way of enlightenment to his friend.

"I forgot, Tom; but I did think you knowed it: guess you're the only boy
in a thousand miles that hain't heard of it. Well, you see the way of it
was this: there was the biggest crowd I ever seed at the circus,--don't
believe any other circus in the country ever had so many people there.
Everything was going 'long all right, when what did Sam Harper do, but
reach out with a stick and punch it in the eye of the tiger, Tippo Sahib?
The minute he done it, the tiger let out a yell that you would have heerd
a mile off, and, afore Sam could get out of the way, the tiger smashed
right out of the cage and was among the people, chawing them up. He had
his well eye on Sam, and crushed his head like an eggshell, with one bite!
Then he made a sweep with his paw, and knocked Jack Habersham clean out
the tent. He must have gone a hundred feet through the air, for he come
down on top of the steeple, and is there yet with the spire sticking up
through him. Then he hit Bill Dunham such a clip that he sailed out
through the same hole in the tent that Jack passed through. When I left,
Bill hadn't been seed by anybody. Guess he hasn't come down yet.

"Then the tiger come for _me_!

"I seen him make a spring, and ducked my head. He went clean over, and
landed among the women and children, and begun chawing 'em up. Why, Tom,
the sound of their bones cracking and snapping in his jaws was like the
fire-crackers going off on the Fourth of July. Them as warn't swallered or
killed scattered right and left, and begun climbing trees, jumping through
winders, and fastening the doors. All this time the tiger kept on chawing.
He never took more than one bite at a man!"

"Did you see him kill any one?" asked the scared Tom, somewhat confused by
the tremendous narrative of his friend.

"Did I see him kill any one? I should say I did. I seed him kill more than
forty!"

"Did he eat 'em all?"

"Of course he did! That is, all but their boots and shoes. He don't seem
to like leather," added Jim thoughtfully; "for I noticed that when the
men were going down his throat, he kind of shet his jaws, so as to slip
off their boots."

"Jim, he must be a big tiger to hold so many folks inside of him."

"Course he is! The biggest that was ever catched in Greenland! He didn't
not only swaller the men and boys and women that I'm telling you 'bout,
but he took in horses, cows, dogs, and anything in his way. If I ain't
mistook, he swallered Mr. MacDowell's two horses with him."

"No, he didn't; for they went by a few minutes ago. But, Jim, what makes
you in such a hurry?"

"I'm trying to get away from Tippo Sahib," replied the frightened lad,
glancing furtively again toward the village.

"Where's the tiger now?"

"He ain't fur off, and," added Jim, speaking the truth this time, "_the
tiger's coming this way, and will soon be here_."



Chapter II.



It was Tom Gordon's turn now to be frightened.

"What!" he exclaimed, almost leaping from his feet; "the tiger coming this
way! How do you know that?"

"I seed him! Ain't that enough? He started right up the road on a gallop,
with the blood dripping from his jaws!"

"But where is he now?"

"He went a little way, stopping now and then to swaller some one that
warn't quick 'nough to git out of his path; he went over the hill this
side of Briggsville, where you know we couldn't see him. By that time a
whole lot of the folks had guns, and started after him. Being on my way
home, I jined 'em. When we got to the top of the hill, old Tippo Sahib
couldn't be seen anywhere."

"Aren't you afeard to go home?"

"No, of course not," replied Jimmy, rapidly regaining courage; "I know how
to fix him if he comes after me."

"How's that?"

"All I've got to do is to stop short and look him right in the eye. A
chap mustn't tremble, but look hard and stern."

"Why didn't you do that, Jim, when he first broke out of his cage?"

"I hadn't time! I'll do it if I meet him agin. Remember, Tom, if you run
against him, you must fix your eyes on him and not wink. _That'll_ fetch
him every time."

"But s'posin' it doesn't?"

"If you should have to wink, and he comes for you, why all you've got to
do is to haul off with your foot and kick him awful hard under the jaw;
that'll fix him! But you mustn't be barefooted, or you'll hurt your toes.
And you must kick hard 'nough too," added the budding naturalist, "to
knock his jaw off. Then of course he can't bite."

The scheme was a brilliant one, perhaps; but young as was Tom Gordon, he
felt that the difficulty lay in its application.

"Gracious! Jim! the tiger is stirring up things, isn't he? We've got a gun
in the house, and if he visits us I think I'll try that."

"Do you know where to hit him?" asked Jim, who, having fully recovered his
wind, seemed at the same time to have regained a vast amount of curious
knowledge of natural history.

"I s'pose in the head is as good as any place."

"Don't you think of such a thing! He don't mind being hit in the head
more than you do getting hit by a spit-ball. You must aim for his tail!"

"How can that hurt him?" asked the amazed Tom.

"Why, I seed the balls that hit his head glance off and scoot up in the
air, like skipping stones over the water. A tiger uses his tail to balance
himself with. Shoot off his tail, and he loses his balance. Every time he
tries to walk, he tips over. Don't forget, Tom, if you shoot, to aim at
his tail, just where it is stuck onto his body. If you miss, look him in
the eye; and if that doesn't stop him, let drive with your foot under the
jaw, and don't forget to have your shoes on. Well, I must go home to tell
the folks to git ready," added Jim, loping off like an Indian starting on
a long journey.

Tom had caught the contagion of excitement, and the moment his friend left
he made a dash for the door of his home, bursting in upon his mother and
aunt with the astounding news just received from his playmate.

Strange women would they have been not to have been wrought up by the
alarming tidings. Brushing aside the chaff, there remained the wheat in
Jim's words to the effect that the tiger, one of the finest of his kind
ever seen in captivity, had broken out of his cage, injured, if not
killed, a number of people, and was in the immediate neighborhood, with
the prospect of paying a visit to this home.

"The gun is loaded," said the mother, turning slightly pale; "but I don't
think one of those animals will attempt to enter a house."

"I have read that in India," remarked her sister-in-law, "they follow the
natives into their houses, and tear down the structures in their fury."

"But their dwellings are made of light bamboo, and are frail structures."

"We may as well be on the right side," remarked the other, stepping
hastily to the door. But just before reaching it, the latch flew up, and
Jim Travers plunged in, falling on his hands and knees, the picture of
terror itself.

"Shut the door quick!" he gasped. "The tiger is coming; he's coming; he's
right behind me."

In a twinkling, Aunt Cynthia sprang forward, caught the latch, and slid
the heavy bar in place, while the mother hastened to the window.

"Look out!" called Jim, clambering to his feet; "he'll spring right
through and chaw you up, quicker'n lightning."

But the brave parent not only threw up the window and bolted the shutters,
but did it coolly and deftly with each window, front and back, thus
shrouding the room in obscurity.

Tom climbed into a chair set in front of the fireplace, and took down the
loaded rifle, which he knew how to use as well as any boy of his years.

"Come, Jim, let's go up-stairs to my bedroom; maybe we can get a shot at
him."

At the top of the stairs the leader paused and turned about.

"Say, Jim, did you try to look in the tiger's eye?" he asked.

"Don't bother me with such foolish questions; I hadn't a chance."

"How was it?"

"Why, I hadn't got far from the house, when I heered a growl, and there
was the tiger in the field, looking over the fence at me."

"Seems to me that was just the chance you wanted, if he was looking at
you."

"I s'pose it was; but to own up, Tom, I didn't think of it. I was afeard
he would go for your folks. So I thought I would walk down and tell you."

"Did you walk all the way?"

"I may have hurried a little,--that is, a part of the way. I would have
turned round and let him have my foot under the jaw, but I was afeard my
shoe would give out."

Meanwhile, the two boys walked softly to the front window of Tom's
bedroom, and cautiously peered out.

"Sh! I b'lieve I see him," whispered the young host.

"Where?" asked his companion in the same guarded manner.

"Under the oak; he's standing still just now. There! he's creeping off
toward the woodshed."

"Yes, that's him! that's him! I know it. Hadn't you better let me take a
shot?"

"I can shoot as well as you."

Tom was right. He was looking upon the royal Bengal tiger and no mistake.
He had halted under a large oak, standing on the other side of the road,
and seemed to be debating with himself what he should do next.

The rattle of a coming wagon attracted his attention, and he crouched
down, as if preparing to spring upon the driver and his animals.

"Just watch him chaw up the horses and the man!" whispered Jim.

"If he means to do that, I'd better shoot," said Tom, setting down his gun
and silently raising the window.

"You can't do it now, for he's almost behind the tree."

"His head shows, and I guess that's better than his tail."

Tom rested the heavy barrel of the rifle on the window-sill, and knelt
down to make his aim sure. Before, however, he could obtain a good sight,
the old farmer came so nearly opposite that he was obliged to restrain
his fire through fear of hitting him or his horses.

The boys held their breath, certain of the awful occurrence at hand. But
the tiger just then seemed to be in a magnanimous mood. Possibly he was
satiated with what he had already devoured in the way of horses, men,
women, and children. Be that as it may, the farmer and his team never
suspected their peril, if, in point of fact, any peril threatened them.
The animals jogged along, with the man half asleep on the front seat, his
idle whip sloping over his shoulder. The king of the jungle made not the
least demonstration against them.

"That must be 'cause he isn't hungry," remarked Jim.

"Then I should think he would go away and leave us."

"Don't you understand? We're tender, and juicier than that old man."

"Jingo! if that's what he's after, I'm going to shoot."

Tom again sighted along the barrel; but at the moment his finger began
pressing the trigger, the beast rose to his feet and looked directly at
the house, as if trying to decide the best avenue of entering,--the door,
the windows, or possibly the chimney.

He formed a striking picture, this fearful king of the jungle, whose
terrific strength, as scientific tests have proven, is one-fifth greater
than that of the African lion. His massive head was erect; his eyes
shone, and his sinewy, graceful body, covered with its soft, velvety and
spotted fur was like the beauty of some deadly serpent. His long tail
slightly swayed from side to side, and, although the boys could not hear
it, they were sure he was growling in his anger.

Once his blood-red tongue was projected for an instant from his mouth, and
licked his jaws, as the cat species are fond of doing; and occasionally he
moved his head from side to side.

"He means to chaw us all up," said Jim. "Why don't you fire?"

At that instant Tom Gordon pressed the trigger.



Chapter III.



The shot, however, was a poor one.

The bullet struck the tiger, wounding him slightly, but not enough to
disable him. Naturally it added to the fury of the beast, and really
increased the peril of the people within the humble home, against whom the
brute seemed to have formed a strong and curious antipathy.

He wheeled about, leaped the fence behind him, galloped a number of paces,
and then paused abruptly, with his head up, and stared at the building, as
if trying to learn the point whence the shot came, that he might punish
the offenders.

"Gracious!" exclaimed Jim Travers, "he's going to jump up here and eat us
up! Let's run."

"Where'll we run?" was the sensible question of Tom. "I'd load up again,
but the powder and bullets are down-stairs, and before I could do it he'd
be on us, if he means to jump into this window."

The halt of the tiger was only momentary. He trotted round to the rear of
the house, vanishing from sight for the moment.

A brilliant idea struck Jim Travers.

"I can do better than that, Tom," he called out, clattering down-stairs.
"Come with me, and I'll show you."

"Are you going to try to look him in the eye?" asked Tom, following after
him, and scarcely less excited than he. "It won't work."

But the other lad paid no attention to the inquiry, so flurried was he
over his new scheme for frightening off the dreaded beast.

The closing of the shutters on the lower floor, as we have explained, cast
it in deep shadow. The mother had been so thorough in her work, that all
the three rooms were thus obscured. Aunt Cynthia had lit a lamp, which sat
on the table, and served to light up the interior.

"What do you mean to do?" she asked of the boys, as they rushed into her
presence.

"I'm going to load the gun," replied Tom. "I don't know what Jim is
driving at."

The women were naturally alarmed at the persistency of the wild animal in
his demonstration against the dwelling. It did look as if he was bent on
revenging himself for the hurt that had been inflicted. Many of the wild
beasts of India, like the frightful cobra, often show great tenacity in
attacking those from whom they have received injury.

"If the tiger will go away, you had better leave him alone," said Aunt
Cynthia. "Your shot doesn't seem to have hurt him at all."

"Yes, it did," insisted Tom. "I hit him, for he jumped."

"But you only made him more angry; I am afraid we are not through with him
yet."

The rifle was of the old-fashioned, muzzle-loading kind, and Aunt Cynthia
gave what help she could to her nephew, as he began reloading it. From the
powder flask she poured a charge down the barrel, upon which Tom pressed
the conical bullet, wrapped about with a small bit of greased muslin. Then
he had only to place a percussion-cap on the tube, and he was ready for
business.

But before this stage of the proceedings was reached, something startling
happened.

Jim Travers paid no heed to what his young friend was doing. Stooping over
the burning wood in the fireplace, the flame of which was quite feeble,
because the day was mild, he began fanning it with his hat. He was thus
employed, and Tom was in the act of capping the rifle, when a crash
against the nearest shutter made the building tremble.

The startled inmates stared trembling in each other's faces.

"It's the tiger!" whispered Mrs. Gordon, uttering a truth that was
manifest to every one.

"He is determined to get at us," added Aunt Cynthia. "What shall we do?"

"I'll fetch him this time," was the confident response of Tom, "if I can
only get a fair aim."

"You had better let me have the gun," said his mother, who was in a
momentary panic.

"Let me try it once more."

"But there is no chance here; it will not do to open the shutter: he will
spring right in among us."

"Up-stairs is the best place," said Tom, hurrying up the steps again.

Meanwhile, Jim Travers, who had been so terrified, displayed more coolness
than any one in the house. Probably he felt so much confidence in his new
scheme, that he was warranted in this self-possession.

Like the rest, he was startled by the crash against the shutter. He rose
to his feet, stared at the window, and, seeing that the beast had not
broken through, stooped and resumed fanning the blaze with more vigor than
ever. At this juncture Tom called from above,--

"Where is he? I can't see him."

He had peered from the front and rear windows without catching sight of
the tiger. The reason was evident: the animal was so near the house that
he could not be observed without raising the sash and thrusting out the
head. It was well the lad was too prudent to do that.

Afraid that their voices might rouse his anger, the mother stepped to the
foot of the stairs and called to her boy,--

"Keep quiet, Tom! He is somewhere near, but we can't see him any more than
you. If we remain still, perhaps he will go away."

Jim Travers, having fanned the pieces of wood on the hearth into a
crackling blaze, stepped softly to the window against which the tiger had
flung himself, and bent his head in close attention.

"Mercy!" exclaimed Aunt Cynthia in an undertone, "come away; if he jumps
through, he will land on top of your head."

"_Sh!_" whispered the boy, holding up one hand as a warning for them to
keep silent; "_I hear him!_"

So he did. The tiger was trotting back and forth and round the building,
evidently seeking some mode of entrance. Clearly he was resolved to punish
the inmates for firing at him.

All stood still and listened. In the profound stillness the women caught
the faint sound made by the velvety feet of the brute in trotting to and
fro. He was traced as he made a complete circuit of the house, and then
paused at the window where he had attempted to leap through.

The low, threatening growl which escaped him sent a shiver through all.
Neither of the women dared to stir or speak. They expected every moment
that his effort would be repeated with success.

And now to the dismay of the two, Jim Travers did an extraordinary
thing,--one that almost took away their breath.

Running to the fireplace, he caught up the largest brand, with which he
hurried to the window, and raised the sash with one hand.

"What are you doing?" demanded Aunt Cynthia in consternation.

"Never mind me," replied the youth; "I'm all right."

And then they literally became speechless when they saw him slide back the
bolt which held the shutter in place. It looked as if he meant to open the
way for the tiger to enter the house.

While thus busy, Jim thought proper to add a word of explanation,--

"There's nothing that wild beasts is so afeard of as fire; that's what I'm
going to play on this chap."

The women were too frightened to protest.

After sliding back the fastenings, Jim stood leaning slightly forward, the
torch in one hand, while the other rested against the shutter, which was
not yet pushed open.

He was listening, and awaiting the opportune moment.

He plainly heard the _tip_, _tip_, of those feet, amid which a cavernous
growl now and then mingled; but he hesitated, for the tiger appeared to
be too far off to spring his scheme upon him.

Jim's coolness was marvelous. None was more terrified than he when the
beast broke out of the cage, and he was among the most panic-stricken that
dashed from the tent and fled homeward.

But here he was, like a veteran sportsman of the jungle, awaiting the
critical moment with what looked like nerves of steel. He listened with
all the acuteness of which he was master, and his keen ears did not
deceive him.

Suddenly he flung both shutters wide open, and let in the flood of
sunshine, which rendered useless the lamp on the table.

There was the tiger, no more than a dozen feet distant. The slight noise
caused him to stop abruptly and turn his head while walking away.

The sight of the lad seemed to whet his fury. He lashed his tail, growled,
and, swinging himself lightly round, cautiously approached the daring
youngster, as if not quite satisfied with the look of things.

Jim leaned farther through the window, and swung his torch round and
round, extending it at the same time toward the beast, which paused a few
steps off, as if to gather himself for the spring.

The lad felt the need of vigor. He whirled the torch harder, and reached
farther, shouting,--

"Get out, or I'll burn your head off! Come any nearer if you dare!"--

At this moment Jim, in his enthusiasm, leaned a trifle too far. His feet
slipped over the floor, and he sprawled headfirst out of the window.



Chapter IV.



Jim Travers felt that he was lost. The women uttered cries of anguish,
clasped their hands, and almost fainted.

Sometimes, however, a person instinctively does the best thing possible,
when, if he took time for thought, he would do the worst.

The antipathy of wild beasts to fire is well known, but it must be
remembered that the full degree of this terror is felt only during the
darkness of night. The sun was in the horizon when the stirring events we
have set out to narrate were going on.

When Jim came tumbling through the window, he held fast to the blazing
torch, even while trying to save himself from falling. His dexterity
enabled him to keep fair command of his limbs, and he bounded to his feet
in a twinkling, at the moment when he expected Tippo Sahib to come down
upon him like a clawing avalanche.

Then, instead of turning about and clambering back through the window (the
surest means of inviting the attack of the beast), he uttered a shout,
and, holding the torch in front, ran straight at the tiger!

It may be doubted whether the fiercest of wild creatures would have
withstood such an assault. Even though the sun was shining, the tiger knew
something of the meaning of that glowing brand. Wheeling about like a cat,
he trotted off, turning his head from side to side, and frequently
glancing at his pursuer.

His flight brought him into the field of vision of Tom Gordon up-stairs,
who had been mystified to understand what was going on below.

"I'll finish him this time," was his conclusion, as he flung up the
window, thrust the barrel of the weapon through, and dropped on one knee.

But it seemed as if fate held that particular royal Bengal tiger in its
special keeping that day. Before Tom could make his aim certain, Jim
Travers popped in front, so in line with the beast that the young marksman
could not fire at one without risk of hitting the other.

"I daresen't do it," he decided, leaning his gun against the wall beside
him; "I'm afeard of hitting Jim."

Although the latter had displayed an extraordinary degree of coolness at a
critical point in the events, it must not be supposed that he possessed
any unusual share of courage. It was his implicit faith in the blazing
torch that inspired him to a daring that few men would have shown; but on
the outside he lost his head.

He was hardly conscious of what he was doing when he sat off after the
fleeing animal, and there's no saying what the end would have been, or
rather there's no doubt that he would have feared ill, had not Tom called
to him,--

"Come back, Jim! Your torch will soon go out, and then he'll have you
sure!"

"Golly! that's so!" muttered Jim, stopping like a flash, and dashing for
the house again; "I didn't think of that!"

Good Mrs. Gordon and Aunt Cynthia had recovered in a degree their senses.
Unspeakably shocked by the peril of the youth, whose courage they
estimated too highly, they shrank from no risk that could aid his final
escape. They had not closed the shutter after his mishap, and, when they
saw him wheel and run back, they stood by the window ready to receive him.

Jim Travers was a good runner; and when it is stated that he was certain
Tippo Sahib was skurrying at his heels, it need not be added that he
"surpassed himself" in the way of fleetness. Finding, after running a
short way, that the beast was not after him, Jim flung aside the torch and
went through the window like a cannon shot, rolling over and striking the
other side of the room before his flight was checked. A lad of his years,
however, rarely suffers from hard knocks and bumps, and he was on his feet
the next moment.

"Shet the window quick!" he called, "or he'll be in here."

No need of the appeal, for the mother with deft fingers quickly secured
the shutter as before; and but for the lamp, all would have been in
darkness again.

Jim darted up-stairs to learn how his playmate was making out.

"Why don't you shoot, Tom?" he called, hurrying to his side.

"'Cause I don't see anything to shoot at," was the answer.

"What's become of the tiger?"

"I guess you scared him off."

Jim peeped cautiously out of the window.

"That's so; he isn't anywhere round, but he was out there a few minutes
ago."

"So was you; but you aren't there now."

"I thought he chased me clean up to the winder."

"He didn't foller you a single step; when you struck out for the window,
he stopped short and laughed ready to die to see you run."

"The tiger laughed at me!" exclaimed Jim angrily; "who ever heard of such
a thing?"

"Well, he looked as though he wanted to laugh, and then trotted down the
road; I seen him jump over the fence and make for the woods."

"That's where he's gone! I guess I'll go home now, while I have the
chance."

"Better wait, Jim, till you're sure he isn't round."

Jim followed this sensible advice, staying to supper, to which he was
always welcome.

The women had received so great a shock, that they could not recover from
it as quickly as the volatile youngsters. The shutters and doors were kept
fastened, and every few minutes they peeped out in quest of the tiger that
showed so much enmity toward them. When darkness closed in, however, not
the first glimpse had been caught of him, and all began to hope he had
taken his final departure. Mrs. Gordon gave her consent that Jimmy Travers
should start homeward; and, promising to keep a sharp lookout for the
creature, he departed. It may as well be added that he saw nothing more of
Tippo Sahib, nor did the animal pay any visit to his home.

"_Helloa! the house there!_"

This was the startling summons that rang out in the stillness of the
night, about two hours after the departure of Jimmy Travers. Mrs. Gordon
stepped to the door, and with some misgiving drew it open. The full moon
was shining brightly, and she saw two horsemen who had halted in the
highway opposite the gate.

"Good-evening!" said the spokesman, lifting his hat in salutation when he
observed the woman; "have you seen anything of a strange animal in this
neighborhood, madam? We have traced him almost to this spot, but have lost
track of him."

"Do you refer to the tiger that escaped from the menagerie this
afternoon?"

"That's the animal we're looking for."

"Yes; he was here late in the afternoon, and tried to jump through the
window."

"Did he hurt any one?" asked the man in alarm.

"No; we did not receive a scratch. My son shot him."

"What!" exclaimed the other; "did he kill the animal?"

"Oh, no," answered Mrs. Gordon (who was joined by Aunt Cynthia and Tom),
smiling at the fear of the visitors; "my boy is quite young, and isn't
much of a marksman; he thinks he hit the beast"--

"And I did too," interjected the lad, not pleased with this slur upon his
skill with the gun.

"Possibly he did; but he was not injured much."

"I am glad to learn that. The tiger is one of the most valuable animals we
have in the menagerie; I should be very sorry to lose him."

"But," interposed Aunt Cynthia, "it may become necessary to shoot him in
self-defense."

"Not likely; he is not apt to injure any one if he is let alone."

Tom had not forgotten the appalling stories told by Jim Travers on his
arrival from the exhibition.

"I heered he chawed up Sam Harper, Jack Habersham, Bill Dunham, and a
whole lot of folks that was at the circus."

The laughter of the two horsemen was hearty.

"Those youngsters are alive and well. The boy who punched the tiger in the
eye, and caused all this rumpus, was knocked down and scratched somewhat,
but not half as much as he deserved. No one else, so far as we can learn,
has been injured; though, as I remarked just now, Tippo Sahib will fight
if he is driven into a corner."

"He tried to jump through our window," said Aunt Cynthia.

"Before or after you fired at him?"

"Afterward."

"I suppose it was caused by the hullabaloo of the people, frightened out
of their wits. It is the same as when a hue and cry is raised about a dog.
If he isn't mad, he will soon become so. But, madam, we are very anxious
to secure the animal before he is killed or seriously injured. We will pay
a good reward for his recapture."

"How much?" asked Tom, to the surprise of his relatives.

"One hundred dollars to any one who will secure him without injury, or
fixes it so we can recapture him. May I ask where the tiger seemed to be
going when you last saw him?"

"The last we seen of him," replied Tom, "he was cutting 'cross the field
toward the woods over yonder."

Thanking the boy and the ladies for their information, the horsemen rode
off, soon disappearing up the highway.

The fact that these men, experienced in their knowledge of wild animals,
were searching for the escaped tiger, naturally lifted much of the fear of
the beast from the hearts of the Gordon family. They believed the keepers
would recapture him before he could do much harm in the community. They
were convinced, too, that they were not the only ones looking for him.

The shutters of all the windows were never more carefully barred than
before the three inmates retired to their beds.

Tom Gordon, being a rugged, healthy boy, generally passed the night in
refreshing slumber. Not a trace of the ague which kept him from the circus
showed itself in his system when he went up-stairs to his room; but,
somehow or other, after he lay down he could not sleep.

No doubt the excitement through which he had gone so wrought upon his
nerves as to drive away all drowsiness; but the thought that was running
through his brain found expression in the words:--

"A hundred dollars! What a fortune that is! It would make us comfortable
for life. I wonder if there is any way of catching Tippo Sahib before the
men find him.

"I don't believe there's anything in what Jim said about looking the
creature in the eye. S'pose I should meet him in the woods, and fix him
that way, what good would it do? I'd have to stand there till the keepers
come along, and they might not do that for a week or two. By that time I'd
be starved to death, and so would the tiger, and they want him alive.

"Jim must be mistaken, too, 'bout shooting off his tail. Jim and me
haven't got any tails, and we don't have any trouble in walking. I can't
see how it would make any difference with the tiger, either. I wonder
where Jim got all them ideas,--I guess where he got the stories 'bout so
many people being chawed up."

The lad lay for a while on one side, and then flung himself on the other.
Several times he was on the point of dropping into an uneasy slumber, but
some slight noise always came at the critical moment to make him wider
awake than he was in the first instance.

What is more disturbing than the occasional rattle of a window sash when
we are trying to woo sleep? By and by Tom discovered it was that which had
played the mischief with his rest. He sprang impatiently out of bed, and
hurried to the window, with the intention of righting matters.

The bright moon shining from an unclouded sky made it almost as light as
day. He stood a minute, looking out upon the beautiful scene; for, young
as he was, he could not fail to be impressed by the striking loveliness of
everything out-doors.

"I wonder whether they've catched Tippo Sahib"--

The lad caught his breath, for just then he saw something moving in the
shadow of the woodshed. A second look showed it to be some sort of
quadruped, and the third--could he believe his eyes?--revealed the tiger
himself!

Yes, it was the terrible brute and no mistake. The boy rubbed his eyes and
looked again. Some unaccountable attraction seemed to have brought Tippo
Sahib back to the dwelling where he had met with so interesting an
experience that afternoon.

But all this being so, Tom Gordon might well ask himself what good the
presence of the animal promised to be to him. Hitherto, he and his friends
had counted themselves lucky in being able to keep out of his way when he
showed a desire to explore the interior of the house. How, then, could he
expect to get the hundred dollars offered for the capture of the brute?

Mingled with the eager wish of the lad to earn the munificent sum, was a
slight misgiving as to the meaning of this return of the tiger. Having
eluded the men sent after him, had he come back to revenge himself upon
those who had treated him so ill?

This discomforting thought was dissipated by the action of Tippo Sahib.
He did not move around as on his former visit, but seemed to be prowling
about the woodshed, as if in quest of something. Surely he would not act
thus if he meditated an attack upon the inmates of the home!

But Tom had learned from his aunt and mother that if the tiger chose, he
could readily leap from the ground to the windows of the upper story, and,
therefore, would have little difficulty in entering, if he was bent on
doing so.

"I'll get my gun, so as to be ready to shoot him. But if I shoot him, I
won't get the reward that was promised; but it's better to kill him than
to have him chaw us to pieces."

Just then the animal worked his way round the corner of the structure, out
of the shadow, into the bright moonlight. He showed no interest in the
house itself, but confined his attention to the woodshed,--a fact which
lessened the lad's fear, and held him at the window, closely watching the
beast.

His change of location brought him to the front of the strong wooden
building, and near the partially open door.

The heart of the lad gave a great bound.

"S'pose he goes inside, and I slip up and shut him in!"

All the indications pointed to the tiger entering the structure, though
it was impossible to imagine his purpose, unless he scented the waste food
kept there in a barrel for the pigs belonging to the Widow Gordon.

The attempt the lad had in mind involved a fearful risk; for there could
be no doubt that if the beast detected him, he would make him serve for
supper.

Probably if Tom had been given a few more minutes to think over the
matter, he would have abandoned the design in his mind; but that one
hundred dollars looked as big to him as a million does to most people.
Hastily drawing on his trousers, he began stealthily descending the
stairs. Fortunately for him, his aunt and mother were asleep, else they
would have put an emphatic veto on his foolhardy scheme. The bolts of the
door were softly slid back, the door itself silently drawn inward an inch
or two, and the lad peeped out. His position gave a full view of the front
of the woodshed, and the sight was an interesting one. The tiger had
partially entered. Indeed, little was seen more than his tail, which,
projecting from the darkness of the structure, swayed slowly from side to
side, as if he had detected something not altogether pleasing.

"If he goes in, I'll slip out and hook the door; but, if he comes back, it
won't do to let him see me."

This was the thought that stirred Tom Gordon, as he peered stealthily out
of the crack made by the door. Could he have thought of any way by which
to drive the tiger inside, he would have done so; but there was none. He
could only wait and watch, and hope for a favorable issue of the
undertaking.

It struck him as strange that the beast should stand so long with only his
tail in the outer air. The lad fancied it had disappeared entirely; but at
the moment he was about to slip forward, he detected the tuft agitating
the chips and dirt about the entrance. He therefore held back and still
watched and waited.

There! the brute must have taken another step farther, for no part of his
appendage was visible. He was wholly within the shed.

It was now or never.

Tom left the door open a few inches, so that if he should find it
necessary to retreat, he would meet with no trouble in re-entering his
home. In that event, however, it wasn't likely Tippo Sahib would meet with
any trouble in following him.

The heart of the youth throbbed violently when he stepped out in the
moonlight and comprehended the perilous nature of the business.

"If he comes out tail first," was his thought, "I'll have a chance to
dodge him; but if he comes head first, I'll be a goner."

He was not idle while these imaginings were passing through his mind. Step
by step, and on tiptoe, he stole forward, until he stood within a couple
of paces of the fastening. Then it was that his courage almost deserted
him, and the desire to turn about and make a dash for the door behind him
was well-nigh irresistible.

But the thought of that magnificent hundred dollars restrained and nerved
him to push on. Another step and he had but to lean forward with
outstretched arm, seize the door, and snap it toward him. He was in the
act of doing so, when he heard a guttural growl from within. Had this
reached his ears when he was a few feet farther off, Tom would have turned
and fled for life. He would have done so now but for his belief that it
was too late. He could only save himself by shutting that door before the
beast came through it.

Holding his breath, the lad seized the handle, and with a quick flirt drew
the door toward him. The strong iron hook was slipped into the staple, and
he had done all he could. Yielding then to the panic which had been
struggling so long within him, he bounded upon the front porch, shot
through the door, and closed and fastened it in a twinkling. Not even then
did Tom feel safe, but bounded up-stairs with so much haste and noise,
that the wonder was he did not awaken his aunt and mother. They slept too
soundly, however, to be disturbed.

He ran to the window of his bedroom, and looked out again, fearing that
the royal prisoner had already freed himself and would proceed to punish
the one that had taken such liberties with him. Strange to say, everything
looked as if there was no tiger within a score of miles. The door of the
woodshed was fastened as it had been many times; but no noise or
disturbance, so far as the lad could judge, sounded from within the
structure. The prisoner seemed to have accepted his misfortune
philosophically, and, perhaps, had lain down to rest himself after his
stirring experiences of the afternoon.

"I wonder if he can get out of there. It's pretty strong, and there isn't
any back-door or window that he can use."

The youth was so deeply interested in the question that he brought his
chair beside the window and sat down to await results. It was not strange,
perhaps, considering the lateness of the hour, that the sleep which he had
long sought in vain now came to him. By and by his head began nodding,
and, despite the cramped position, he slumbered soundly until awakened by
the call of his mother.

As soon as Tom could collect his senses, he looked at the woodshed. So far
as he saw, no change had taken place. Then he hurried down-stairs and told
the astounding tidings.

"Mercy!" gasped Aunt Cynthia, "I was just about going to the shed for
some wood, you were so long coming down. Suppose I had!"

"It would have been all over with you," replied Tom, hardly less startled
than they; "I meant to stay awake all night, but forgot myself."

"Perhaps he has got out," suggested the mother; "I don't understand why he
has kept so quiet."

While they were talking, a call came from the roadway again. When they
looked out, four horsemen were seen.

"We find it impossible to locate that beast," explained the one that had
done the talking the night before; "I hardly suppose you have seen
anything more of him."

Before Mrs. Gordon or Aunt Cynthia could reply, Tom asked,--

"Did you say you would give a hundred dollars to any one that gets that
tiger without hurting him?"

"We'll be glad to do that, sonny, or if he will show us where he is so we
can capture him."

"Will you give a hundred dollars to have him in the woodshed there?"

"Indeed we will."

"Very well; _he's there!_"



Chapter V.



The men looked at Tom Gordon as if doubting his words.

"Are you in earnest?" asked one of them.

"Look for yourselves."

The horseman was out of the saddle in a twinkling, and walked quickly to
the woodshed, whose cracks were so numerous that it was easy to see every
part of the interior. Placing his eyes at one of these openings, he peered
through.

"By George, boys!" he exclaimed, turning about, "the youngster's right;
Tippo is in there."

The others hastily dismounted, tied their horses, and joined him. All took
a look before they were satisfied no mistake had been made.

The tiger was stretched out in one corner, and had been asleep, when he
was awakened by the noise. He raised his head, opened his eyes and
growled, but showed no special anger at being disturbed.

While the men were debating as to the best means of securing him, Jack
Durrick, who had done most of the talking, explained to the ladies and Tom
what must have puzzled them concerning the action of the beast.

Durrick, it should be stated, figured on the stupendous posters as
"Professor De La Cordova, Successor of the Renowned Van Amberg, and Fully
his Equal in his Amazing Power and Control over the Wild Beasts of the
Forest and Jungle." In this case, it must be added, the professor
possessed fair claim to this distinction. He displayed great skill in the
management of wild animals. No one could handle Tippo Sahib as did he. Had
he been near the cage when Sam Harper angered him, he never would have
permitted the beast to escape.

He said Tippo was frightened and nervous through his suddenly acquired
freedom. He suffered pain from the jab in his eye, and was made more
restless and fidgety by the excitement and his strange surroundings. The
slight wound received by him renewed his anger; but, when he withdrew from
the immediate vicinity, he undoubtedly made a raid on some farmer's
live-stock, and had devoured a calf, pig, or sheep. He had eaten his fill,
and thereupon became so docile as to be comparatively harmless, provided
he was treated with consideration.

His return to the scene of his most stirring experience was one of those
whims which his species sometimes show. Tired from his flight and filled
to satiety, he had lain down to rest in the woodshed, so satisfied with
his quarters that he offered no objection when Tom Gordon slipped up and
fastened the door. So powerful and active an animal, had he chosen, could
have broken out of the place in a twinkling; but he was content to stay
where he was until fully rested.

"I assure you," added the professor, "you wouldn't have kept him much
longer; when he awoke, hungry and thirsty, he would have placed himself on
the outside before you could say Jack Robinson, and _then_ there would
have been trouble."

The actions of the professor proved his faith in his own words. He coolly
unhooked the door, gently pushed it back, and stepped within the
structure. Tippo Sahib uttered a growl, and Tom and his friends shrank
farther away. The men, however, one of whom carried a coil of rope, held
their places.

Professor De La Cordova displayed admirable coolness and tact. He was not
rough in manner, but acted like one who felt himself master of the
situation. His course, indeed, suggested to Tom that there was much truth
in Jim Travers's declaration about the power of the human eye over the
denizens of the jungle. Standing erect, the man remained motionless for a
full minute, during which he kept his gaze fixed on the tiger, staring
into those orbs as if he would "look him through."

Tippo Sahib was uneasy for a brief while, and then succumbed to that
mysterious hypnotic influence which, in some cases, is equally potent
with persons. He became humble, meek, and, if the term can be allowed,
penitent.

Fully understanding his condition, the professor reached his hand behind
him, without removing his gaze from the beast.

"The rope!" he said in a low voice.

The next moment, to the amazement of Tom and his relatives, he stepped
gently forward, and fastened the rope around the unresisting neck of Tippo
Sahib, who was led outside like a thoroughly subdued dog. Tom gave him
plenty of room, and closely watched proceedings. While doing so, he
observed a slight scratch on the hip of the beast, barely sufficient to
break the skin; that was the path of the bullet fired by the lad the day
previous.

Other ropes were fastened about the tiger, who took it all as a matter of
course, and calmly followed when his guards moved in the direction of the
horses. These resented the approach of the huge cat, so the professor and
one of his men walked some distance behind the others, who took care of
the animals.

Before their departure, Professor De La Cordova told Tom to call at the
hotel between six and seven that evening, and he would be paid the hundred
dollars with the thanks of Mr. Jones and all connected with the menagerie
and circus.

"I wonder if they mean to cheat me out of it?" said the boy that
afternoon, when he looked at the clock and saw it was nearly time to
start.

"I hardly think so," replied his mother.

"Why didn't they give the money before they took the tiger away?"

"Probably they hadn't so much with them," suggested Aunt Cynthia, who
plainly felt some misgiving over matters; "most likely the money has to be
paid by some officer connected with the show."

"And he may say he never gave his men the right to make such an offer,"
remarked Tom.

"That may be," said the mother, thinking it wise to prepare her son for a
probable disappointment; "the circus is to exhibit at Boorman's to-night.
That is twenty miles off, and all may have gone thither. If those men
choose to disregard their word, I see no help for it."

"It will be awful mean in them," declared the boy, who had become quite
nervous; "I'll never catch any more tigers for them."

Tom loitered on his way to Briggsville, striving not to reach there before
the time named; but despite the effort, he was in town fully a quarter of
an hour too early.

A surprise awaited him. The news of the recapture of the runaway tiger had
preceded him; and, as was natural, the story was exaggerated to an absurd
degree. Jim Travers had told the wondering people that he saw Tom capture
Sipo Tahib, as he called him, by jumping on his back and bending his
forepaws over his neck. (Peter Parley's History, which Jim read at school,
contained a picture of the naturalist Chatterton thus navigating an
alligator, and Jim couldn't see why a tiger should not be handled the same
way. He preferred, however, that some other boy should be the one to make
the experiment.)

So it was that Tom found himself the hero of the hour. The boys and all
his acquaintances gathered round him, and he had to tell the story over
and over, until he became tired. When Jim Travers was reminded that Tom's
modest account did not agree with his flamboyant yarn, he said he feared
he had got things a little mixed, but that was the way he or Tom would
have conducted the recapture had the chance been given them.

"Are you the young man that caught the runaway tiger?" asked a pleasant
looking gentleman, somewhat loudly dressed, as he laid his hand on the
shoulder of Tom Gordon, while he was standing among a group of his friends
on the porch of the hotel.

"I didn't exactly capture him," replied the blushing lad; "but I shut the
door of the woodhouse, and he stayed there till the owners came and took
him away."

"It's all the same; you deserve as much credit as if you had brought him
here without help. I believe they promised you a hundred dollars reward,
didn't they?"

"Yes, sir; one of the men said if I would call here between six and seven
he would give me the money; but I don't see anything of him," added Tom,
looking around, in the hope of catching a glimpse of Professor De La
Cordova. "Has he gone away"

"Yes; he is to appear in the show to-night at Boorman's, and could not
wait. But I am Mr. Jones, the proprietor, and if you will step inside with
me, it won't take us long to fix it. I was only waiting to make sure you
were the right lad."

Tom delightedly followed the gentleman into an inner room, where the door
was closed and the transaction quickly completed.

Mr. Jones made some sympathetic inquiries of the youth, and when he
learned of his mother's moderate circumstances, expressed great pleasure
that the reward had fallen to him. Then he handed him ten bright, crisp
ten-dollar bills.

"That is quite a sum of money for a lad like you to have about him," added
Mr. Jones. "You must be careful not to lose it."

"I am very thankful to you, and shall take good care of it," replied Tom.

"Where are you going to carry it?"

"In my inside coat pocket; then I will button my coat over it."

"That's right; and don't unbutton the coat till you reach your own home."

The money was put away as Tom indicated, and, thanking his kind friend
again, Tom bade him good-by and withdrew.



Chapter VI.



Tom Gordon could not be blamed for failing to note several suggestive
occurrences during this memorable visit to Briggsville.

Seated on the porch of the hotel, while he was talking to the group of
young persons and acquaintances, were two strangers, whose dilapidated
dress, frowzy heads, and surly faces, showed they belonged to that
pestiferous class of vagrants known as tramps. They sat apart, after
taking a drink in the bar-room, and with scowling but interested looks
listened to the chatter going on around them. It did not take them long to
catch the drift of matters. They talked together in low tones, with
furtive glances at the young hero, and kept their places, with a few
muttered remarks that no one else could catch, while Tom was inside.

When the smiling lad reappeared, his friends besieged him with inquiries.

"Did he give you the money, Tom? How much is it?"

Being a sturdy boy, Tom naturally did not wish to appear too much elated
over his good fortune.

"Yes," he replied, with an assumption of indifference; "he paid me the
hundred dollars like a gentleman, and I've got it in my pocket."

"What are you going to do with so much money?" asked a mischievous
acquaintance; "buy a farm, or go in partnership with Vanderbilt?"

"I'm going to give every cent of it to my mother," replied Tom, with a
compression of his fine lips and a flash of his eye.

"That's right!" commented an elderly gentleman; "you couldn't put it into
safer hands, and I mean that for all of you youngsters."

It was at this juncture that the two tramps rose to their feet, and
slouched down the road in the direction of Tom Gordon's home. In the
flurry of the moment no one noticed their departure, which indeed might
not have attracted attention at any time.

"You've got a loaded gun in your house?" was the inquiring remark of the
same gentleman.

"Yes, sir; we always keep one. I fired at the tiger with it, but I didn't
hurt him much," remarked Tom with a laugh.

"Well, tigers aren't the only creatures you've got to look out for in
these times. There are plenty of people that would break into your house
and murder you and your mother and aunt for the sake of that money."

Tom blanched a little at these words, and one of the bystanders said,--

"I don't think we have such people about here, Uncle Jed."

"I hope not, but you can't be too careful; I've been robbed myself when I
hadn't any more thought of it than that boy there."

Had Tom Gordon been a few years older or younger he would have acted
differently; that is to say he would have returned home without delay. But
he did not wish to appear frightened by the words of the old gentleman;
and, though he was eager to hurry home to his mother and aunt with the
good news, he remained talking with his friends and trying to act as
though he had forgotten about his great fortune, until the long summer day
ended and twilight began closing in. Then when he started, he looked
around to see whether any one was going in the same direction. He would
have been glad of company, but it so happened that he set out alone in the
gathering gloom to walk the mile that must be passed before he could reach
his home.

"I wish Uncle Jed hadn't said what he did," he mused, when fairly beyond
the town, "it makes me feel kind of pokerish; why didn't I think to bring
my gun along? If the folks he talks about would rob our house they would
stop me on the road and take the money from me."

He walked faster as the darkness increased, for the moon would not rise
for some time to come, glanced often behind him, and essayed a timid
whistle. He soon ceased this, however, for it only increased his
uneasiness. Every minute or two he pressed one of his hands against his
breast to make sure the precious package was there. Then he glanced back
again in the gloom, and started when he fancied he saw a man following
him. But it was only fancy, and he increased his pace, wondering why the
mile seemed longer than he had ever known it before.

The rattle of a wagon caused him almost to leap from his feet.

"That's lucky!" he exclaimed; "I will get the man to let me ride, and then
no one will dare disturb me."

But it proved that the wagon was coming from the direction of his home, so
it could not be turned to account. He watched it as it came nearer. An old
gentleman sat on the front seat of the open vehicle which was jolting
along at an easy rate. It was too dark to see the driver's features
plainly, but Tom believed he knew him and called out a greeting. The
response showed he was right as to the identity of the individual.

Two-thirds of the way home came the most trying ordeal. The lad was
obliged to follow quite a stretch of road where there was woods on both
sides. This deepened the gloom, for the highway was so narrow that it was
completely shadowed.

"If any robbers are waiting for me," he mused, "it will be in them woods."

He hesitated on the border of the shadows, meditating whether he could
not reach home by some other course; but the forest, originally one that
covered several hundred acres, was bisected by the highway, and the detour
would be long. Still he decided to try it, for, somehow or other, the
conviction was strong with him that danger lurked among the shadows. He
turned about to retrace his steps for a short way, before leaving the
road, when he stopped short, hardly repressing a gasp of affright.

He saw the unmistakable outlines of a man in the gloom, only a short
distance behind him. Afraid to meet him face to face, Tom turned back and
resumed his walk along the highway.

"When I get along a little farther," was his thought, "I'll slip over the
fence among the trees and dodge him."

He began walking fast, continually glancing over his shoulder. His alarm
increased upon discovering that the man had also quickened his footsteps,
so that instead of holding his place, the pursuer, as he may be
considered, was gaining.

The fact that not the slightest sound disturbed the stillness added to the
oppression of the situation. The lad was on the point of breaking into a
run, when the man, who was one of the tramps before referred to, called
out,--

"Hold on there, sonny! don't be in such a hurry."

This salutation was not calculated to soothe Tom's agitation, and without
any reply he started on a loping trot, still keeping his attention to the
rear, and prepared to break into a dead run the moment it became
necessary. He was fleet of foot, and believed he could make the fellow
hustle.

"Didn't you hear me, sonny? If you don't want to get shot, stop!"

Tom had no wish to be shot, nor did he mean to have the company of the
rascal who was bent on intruding upon him.

"Catch me if you can," he muttered, breaking into a swifter pace; "I'm
glad it's night so I'll have a chance to hide from you"--

"Hold on there! what's your hurry, younker?"

The boy almost sank to the ground, for this startling hail came not from
the rear, but from the front. Stopping short, he saw a burly fellow,
standing within ten feet of him in the middle of the road, so nigh indeed,
that, despite the darkness, Tom had no earthly chance of eluding him, as
he might have done had he detected his presence a moment sooner.

Rallying with a supreme effort, he addressed the one nearest him.

"What do you want, that you stop me this way?"

"What do I want?" repeated the tramp with a chuckle, "that's good; why I
want to make the acquaintance of a purty young man like you. What's your
name?"

"Tom Gordon," promptly replied the boy, seeing nothing to be gained by
hiding his identity.

"I'm Count De Buffer, travelling incog. just now, 'cause you see I don't
want the Americans to make so much fuss over me; I have enough of that at
home, where they're not such tuft hunters as here. Glad to know you, Tom,"
added the tramp, extending his hand.

The boy with some hesitation accepted the grimy palm which almost crushed
his own.

"This is my friend Duke De Sassy," said the "count," as the other came up;
"him and me have got tired of the frivolities of court life, and are
making a tower through America studying its institutions, and doing the
country."

"This ere young man didn't seem to care for my company," remarked the last
arrival; "for I called to him two or three times, but then, he couldn't
have knowed that it was a real live dook he was treating that way, so I
forgive him."

"The truth is," added the count, "we're down on our luck just now, and
would like you to accommodate us with a trifle of a loan."

The tramps placed themselves while talking so as to forestall any attempt
on the part of the lad to break away.

"I haven't any money to lend you," sturdily answered Tom.

"Do you mean to say you have no funds in your exchequer?" continued the
count; "'cause if you haven't, of course we don't want anything to do with
you."

It flashed upon Tom that he had only to speak an untruth to free himself
of the presence of these miscreants. Would it be a sin for him to say he
had no money with him?

Only for an instant did the temptation linger. His mother had taught him
that a lie was never justifiable under any circumstances.

"I did not say I had no money," he said, "but that I had none to lend
you."

"Ah, that's a different matter. I'm afeard, Duke," he continued,
addressing his companion, "that we shall be under the necessity of making
a forced loan; how does the proposition strike you?"

"I'm convinced we shall be reduced to that painful necessity. If I'm not
mistook, this young gentleman was paid a hundred dollars this afternoon
for his bravery in throwing a royal Bengal tiger over his shoulder and
bringing him back to the circus, from which erstwhile the animal strayed."

Poor Tom saw it was all up with him. These wretches must have known about
the reward from the moment he received it. They had planned the robbery,
and he had walked straight into the trap set for him.

"Yes, I have a hundred dollars given to me for helping to catch the tiger;
I was taking it home to my mother."

"That's a good boy," commented the count; "always think of your mother,
for the market isn't overstocked with first-class mothers. But bear in
mind, sonny, that we're only borering this for sixty days, and we'll give
you ten per cent interest--that's our style of doing bus'ness, eh, Duke?"

"Well, if I must, I must," said Tom hopelessly, making a move of his hand
as if to draw the money from his trousers pocket.

"That's right, allers take things philosophically, and be ready to extend
a helping hand to them as"--

The count had got thus far in his observations, when the boy darted to one
side, and made a desperate attempt to pass them and reach the fence on his
right.

He came very nigh succeeding too. In fact, he did get to the fence, and
was in the act of clambering over, when he was seized in the iron grip of
Count De Buffer, who was angered at the narrow escape of the youth making
off with the funds.

"If you try anything like that agin, I'll kill you!" he said, choking and
shaking the boy; "we mean bus'ness, young man, and don't you forget it!"

Tom still struggled furiously, and pulled so hard that all three moved
several paces along the highway. Nor did he cease his resistance until he
had been struck several cruel blows.

"Now fork over them funds!" commanded the count, when the panting lad was
exhausted.

"I sha'n't do it!" was the sturdy reply.

"Very well; then we'll do it for you."

The lad made no resistance, and the tramps searched him thoroughly from
head to foot. Not a penny was found on him.

"We ought to break your head for that trick," said the duke, "and if it
had done you any good we'd do so; but we understand it. You flung the
money away when you made a rush for the fence."

"If I did," was the defiant response of the boy, "all you've got to do is
to find it again."

"We'll soon do that; hold him fast till I get it, and then we'll settle
with him."

The tousled scamp shuffled off to the side of the highway to search for
the package, which he was convinced had been thrown there at the time
their prisoner made his dash for freedom.

"That'll prove bad bus'ness for you," growled the duke, who was the
custodian of Tom.

"Not any worse than if you had got it," replied the youth, who was
thoroughly roused by his brutal treatment. He had been struck several
times, but could not believe the ruffians would dare put him to death in
revenge for the loss of the money, that is, provided they did recover it.

"Haven't you found it, Dick?" called the duke, forgetting the title of his
comrade.

"No, confound it! I don't know where to look for it."

"Where did you fling it?" demanded the duke of his captive.

"I shall not tell you; you may kill me first."

"Very well; take that!"

But Tom managed to dodge the blow, and, by a quick leap, freed himself of
the grip of his captor. The next minute he was off like a deer.

Possibly the tramp might have overtaken him, had he made the effort; but
he chose to let him go while he joined his friend in hunting for the
money.

They kept up the search for hours, and were then, obliged to give it up.
Afraid that the boy, who must have reached home long before, would bring
friends back, the tramps took their departure while the opportunity was
theirs, and were seen no more.

Tom Gordon did a brave thing. The moment he discovered he was not pursued,
he hid himself at the side of the road, and waited till the scamps
departed. Then, when the moon had risen, he stole back again, and,
remembering quite well where he had thrown the package of money, found it
with little difficulty, and reaching home without further incident, told
his stirring experience to his mother and aunt.



Chapter VII.



It will be admitted that Tom Gordon and Jim Travers had met with a pretty
stirring experience, as a result of the visit of the circus and menagerie
to Briggsville. Tom had not been able to attend the performance; but it
may be said he was favored with a little "circus" of his own, in which he
played the part of star performer. But all's well that ends well, and he
had the pleasure of walking into his humble home and turning over to his
mother the handsome reward paid for the restoration of Tippo Sahib,
comparatively unharmed, to the owner. He was so well liked by teacher and
playmates that all congratulated him. There was no jealousy of his good
fortune, for there was none more deserving, and, it may be added, no more
in need of the material help given by that one hundred dollars.

But what has been told was but an incident in the life of the two boys,
whose fortunes I have set out to tell. A remarkable train of circumstances
in due course involved the lads in a series of incidents which had an
important bearing on their future lives, and taught a lesson which young
lads cannot learn too often in this world.

Tom and Jim devoted themselves more closely than ever to their school
studies, and, as a result, became two of the best-informed pupils at that
crude institution of learning. They grew to be strong, sturdy youths, as
fond of athletic sports as they were of study, and with a promise of the
right sort of success in life. Neither dreamed of what the immediate
future had in store for them.

A year after the incident of the tiger, Tom's Aunt Cynthia peacefully
died, and a few month later, to his almost inconsolable grief, his beloved
mother passed away. Thus he was left an orphan, without brother or sister.
The blow was a crushing one, and for weeks he wished to die and join the
dear ones that had gone before. He grieved until his friends feared he was
falling into a decline, and became seriously concerned for him.

It has been truly said, however, that no person in the enjoyment of health
and vigor of body can long be crushed by affliction. He will rally sooner
or later. Thus it proved in the case of Tom Gordon. His former strength
and spirits gradually came back to him. There were moments and hours when
he was weighed down by his great loss; but it was gradually softened by
the passage of time, until the day came when his friends believed he had
fully recovered from the sorrow that had nearly driven the life from his
body and soul.

One sad feature of his affliction was that he was left almost penniless.
With all the thrift, frugality, and self-denial of mother and aunt, they
had been able to leave the youth hardly anything at all when they died.
The humble home, with all its belongings, was sold for less than the
mortgage, and Tom found himself with little besides the clothes he wore
and a few precious mementoes of those that had passed away.

In a community where he was so favorably known, it was impossible that he
should suffer actual want. More than one home was offered him, not only
until he could find some situation or engage in some trade, but as long as
he chose to avail himself of it.

Tom was forced to accept some one of these offers, and he went home with
Jim Travers until he could decide what to do. He knew he was welcome
there, and could stay as long as he wished, though he had no thought of
becoming a burden upon the kind friends that had opened their doors to
him.

Now, it was this change in the surroundings in the daily life of Tom
Gordon that led to the singular incidents I have set out to tell.

Jim Travers lived alone with his father, who was in fair circumstances.
His mother had died in his infancy; and his only sister, Maggie, was his
playmate for a few years longer, when she departed to join the loved one
that had preceded her. The husband and father became a lonely and bowed
man, whose years were far less than they seemed. Although a farmer in a
small way, he committed the sad error of engaging in stock speculations,
more with a view of diverting his mind from his gnawing grief than with
the hope of bettering his fortune. It is hardly necessary to relate what
followed. He was successful for a time, and improved his financial
standing. He gladly welcomed Tom Gordon beneath his roof, for he knew his
own boy could not have a playmate whose company would be more improving to
him. Then Mr. Travers dipped more deeply into speculation. With brighter
prospects than ever, there came the fateful hour in Wall Street, when
every penny was swept from him.

"I am a beggar!" he gasped, when the whole dreadful truth broke upon him;
"and I am too old to begin life again. It is better that I should die."

And die he did in the great city of New York. The shock was fatal; and his
body was brought back to Briggsville, and laid to rest beside the forms of
his wife and little Maggie, that had died long before. Jim was dazed by
the unexpected blow. It became the privilege of Tom Gordon to act as his
comforter, but it was a long time before the little fellow came out from
the valley of shadow into the life-giving sunlight again.

But here was the solemn situation: Tom Gordon and Jim Travers were
orphans, with no near relatives, and with only their own hands to earn
their daily bread. What was the best thing for them to do?

This was the grave question which the two boys sat down to answer in the
gloom of a wintry evening, when they were about fourteen years of age.
They had received plenty of counsel, and much of it was excellent. The
teacher, the minister, and numerous good neighbors had been as kind as
they could possibly be, and the youths knew no real hardship could come to
them as long as they stayed in or near the place where they were born.

But they were not satisfied to do so. They felt they ought to strike out
for themselves, and Briggsville was not the place to do it. The
opportunities were too few.

They talked for a long time in an aimless way, discussing numerous
schemes, but without agreeing upon any.

"Jim, let's go to New York."

Tom made the proposition as though it had come to him that moment, when in
truth it had been in his mind from the first, as it was with Jim, who was
on the point of uttering it, but was waiting for his friend, because he
was a few months older and took the lead in all matters.

"I wonder if that wouldn't be the best thing to do," remarked Jim, like
one to whom the idea was new.

"Neither of us has ever been in New York. It is a great place, full of
dangers of all kinds, but there are chances for every one to get along, if
he will do what's right and isn't afraid to work."

"If we should tell the people what we have in mind, they would advise us
to stay here or to try Philadelphia."

"We must pass Philadelphia to get to New York, but I don't feel like
staying there, do you, Jim?"

"No; I don't fancy the place. Father took me there once when I was a wee
younker, and it struck me as being slow."

Tom laughed at the thought of a little fellow being impressed that way by
one of the leading cities in the Union. He, too, had been in the large and
handsome town, but for some reason, which he could not explain, had formed
a prejudice against it. He shook his head at the proposition of trying
their fortunes there.

"Philadelphia isn't big enough for us," he remarked quizzically; "New York
is the only place where we can spread and grow."

"Then I propose we go to New York to seek our fortune. What do you say?"

"We'll stick together."

And the young friends reached their hands toward each other and clasped
them in the dim light of Jim Travers's room.

It was an important decision they had reached, and they talked over the
matter for a long time. Each had quite a little sum of money, which they
had saved with scrupulous care. They had good serviceable clothing, with
something extra in the way of change. The executors of Mr. Travers had
completed their duty and made their report to court. As in the case of the
Widow Gordon, not a penny was left for the boy, and the house and
everything it contained was to pass into the hands of strangers.

Jim Travers and Tom Gordon were occupying their single room on sufferance.
The new-comers were to take possession on the first of the following
month, and a hint had been given the boys which it was impossible for them
to misunderstand. Their room was preferable to their company.

"Next Tuesday is the first," remarked Jim; "I suppose we can stay here the
few days until then."

"That's less than a week. What's the use of waiting when we have made up
our minds to go?" was the pertinent question of Tom. "I prefer not to meet
those folks that are coming here."

"That's the way I feel," assented the younger, striving to repress his
ardor over the prospect. "They will put on airs, turn up their noses at
us, and make themselves at home. I can't bear," he added, his voice
slightly trembling, "to see them parading through the house which father
owned, and walking into his room as if no one else had the right to go
there."

"Well, I'm glad, Jim, that we think alike. Tomorrow we'll bid our friends
good-by and take the afternoon train to New York."

"That suits me. It would hardly be right to slip off without saying
anything to the fellows. We'll call on them all."

"Yes; that is right. I promised Sam Harper to let him know about it."

"I suppose you did, and you won't forget to tell Nellie."

Jim laughed at his own sly remark, and the handsome Tom blushed at this
reference to the pretty sister of his playmate.

The hour grew late, but they sat a long time talking of what they would do
when they made their home in the great metropolis. Bridget, the old
servant, warned them once or twice that it was past bedtime; but seeing
her words were unnoticed, she withdrew and left them together.

Ah, when are the dreams of life so radiant as in early youth? What
pictures are so glowing, so beautiful, so vivid, so real, as those which
come to the boy when he stands with his feet on the threshold, and looks
far out over the limitless fields which spread before his view? The air
"lets finer sunlight through," and the skies are more golden than they
can ever be again. It is the hour when to him nothing in the whole wide
world is impossible. It is a sweet, soul-stirring vision which, alas, too
often is darkened or swept away by storm and mists and darkness and death.

The programme of the two boys was carried out, with some modification, the
next day. They found, when they came to go around among their friends to
bid them good-by, that it took longer than they had counted on. They
separated; and when night arrived, Tom was urged so cordially to stay and
take supper with Sam Harper that he did not refuse.

Then he had to remain a while in the evening, which proved to be a most
pleasant one to the visitor. The parents of his playmate were sensible
people, who, finding the caller had made up his mind to go, did not
attempt to dissuade him. On the contrary, they reminded him that under
heaven he had every reason to hope for success.

"The instruction received from your good mother," said Mr. Harper, "I am
sure can never be forgotten by you. You have a fair education for your
age; and I say to you as I did to Jimmy Travers, when he stopped here a
while ago, be honest, truthful, obliging always, and your reward is
certain. You will meet with disappointments and all sorts of trials, but
keep up your courage. Never let go; hang fast; take whatever comes in
your way and do it with all your might, and success is sure, sooner or
later."

"I have made up my mind to that," replied Tom modestly. "Jimmy and I don't
imagine that half the merchants in New York will be waiting at the ferry
for us, and will scramble over each other to see who shall have our
services."

The gentleman smiled at the picture, and his wife added,--

"There are so many dangers and pitfalls that I tremble at the thought of
two boys like Tom and Jim going into such a great city, where they do not
know a living person."

"It is a matter for serious thought, but hundreds have done the same
before them, and have achieved success."

"Have not some failed?"

"Doubtless the majority have failed to attain what they expected. But the
same is true right here in Briggsville, and is true everywhere. I hold the
doctrine, that to the boy who is strong, rugged, honest, willing, not only
to work, but to wait, that success is bound to come sooner or later."

Tom was much encouraged by these wise words, and felt a strengthening of
the resolve he had formed the night before.

It was bright, pretty Nellie who now spoke.

"Won't it be splendid when Tom becomes a rich merchant, able to live in
his fine house and have his horse and carriages and servants?"

"I am afraid it will be a long time before I get that far," replied the
lad with a blush; "but I shall do it if there is any way possible."

"Riches are not the highest object in this life, though they are well
enough in their way. Don't think so much about them as about doing your
duty. Be content to begin at the bottom of the ladder. It is an old
saying, but there never was a truer one, that you will always find plenty
of room at the top."

After some more pleasant conversation, Tom shook hands with his friends
and bade them good-by. He ventured to give the delicate palm of Nellie a
little warmer squeeze than he had ever dared to do before, and looked
meaningly in her eyes. But she was diffident and did not return the
pressure, and he was not certain of the precise meaning of the look she
gave him at parting.

He felt a trifle uncomfortable, while walking homeward in the crisp
moonlight.

"I suppose Nellie would feel quite proud of me if I ever become a rich
man; but suppose I don't. She always was a proud girl, and likely enough
will turn up her nose if I fail, which _I won't!_" he added, compressing
his lips and walking faster.

Tom found Jim at home and waiting for him. They sat up late again talking
over their grand scheme of seeking their fortune, and even after they
retired the hum of their conversation continued until far into the night.

The following morning they turned their backs upon Briggsville forever.
The ride to Philadelphia was not far. They had decided to stop there for a
time, as there was no call for haste. Neither held a thought of making
their stay permanent. They strolled down Chestnut Street, looking at the
pleasing sights that are always to be met in that fashionable
thoroughfare, viewed some of the fine structures, and stared until they
were tired.

But they were eager to go on. The metropolis of the country was their
destination, and they would never be satisfied until they reached it.
Accordingly, when the afternoon was well along, they boarded the train and
sped away to the northward. Everything thus far, even if interesting, had
been dull and commonplace, but sooner than they anticipated, they entered
upon the most stirring and momentous experience of their lives.



Chapter VIII.



"A Man overboard!"

This was the startling cry that rang out from the multitude swarming
forward on the ferry-boat D. S. Gregory, one wintry night, as she was
approaching the dock at the foot of Courtlandt Street, on her trip from
Jersey City.

For a few seconds confusion and excitement reigned supreme.

The boat was crowded with passengers, many of whom had passed out of the
forward cabin doors, and were pushing toward the bow, eager to be the
first to leap ashore, scarcely willing to wait till the lattice-like gates
were drawn aside to allow them to pass.

Some were smoking, many were talking, and no one was dreaming of anything
wrong, when the alarming cry resounded through the frosty air.

The captain heard it on the instant, as did the engineer; for the latter
checked the swinging of the ponderous working-beam at the same second that
he received the signal from the captain--a thing which never happens
unless in some such emergency.

As the throbbing of the engine ceased and the boat glided smoothly along,
there was such a general rush toward the bow that a dangerous dipping of
the craft followed--a peril which no one beside the officials on the
vessel observed.

"Who is he?"

"Did he jump over?"

"Did he fall?"

"Was he pushed?"

"Can he be saved?"

"Where is he?"

These and similar questions were on a hundred lips; and before any
intelligible answer could be given, a woman gave utterance to the most
heart-rending scream, and made such frantic attempts to spring into the
water, that the intervention of several strong men was required to prevent
her.

"It must be her husband."

But the expression was yet in the mouth of the speaker, when, falling limp
and despairing into the sturdy arms of the unknown friends, she wailed,--

"Will no one save my child? Let me go to her; she is all that is left to
me--oh, let me die with her!"

"It's a little girl that fell overboard," called out some one who had seen
the accident. "There she is--hello!"

The last exclamation was caused by a second splash, as a dark body clave
the air and dropped into the water within a few yards of where the dress
of the little girl could be faintly discerned.

"Heavens, that is only a little boy!" called out an excited individual.
"Are all the children to be drowned before our eyes?"

The general belief was that this lad, through some strange mischance, had
also fallen into the river, a belief which was quickly dispelled by
another boy, no doubt his playmate, calling out,--

"That's my chum, Tom, and you needn't be afraid of him; he can outswim a
duck and a goose and a fish all together; he jumped over to save that
little girl, seeing as all you big men was afraid--and you can just bet
he'll do it too."

There was a tone of absolute certainty in these remarkable words which
lifted a mountain from more than one heart, and instantly transferred all
interest to the brave young lad who had sprung into the water to save a
little girl that was a stranger to him.

A cold wintry night was closing in when this accident took place, and the
lights from the shipping and the great city twinkled like myriads of
stars.

Great black hulls lay still and motionless in the water, as if they were
enormous ogres of the deep waiting for human prey to come into their vast
maws; steam-tugs were puffing and darting here and there, in and out
among the shipping, as though they were playing hide-and-seek with each
other; another ferry-boat was just putting out from the dock on the New
York side, the paddle-wheels crunching and grinding the chunks of ice, as
if masticating its food.

In the chilly gloom of the evening, the crowds that swarmed to the
gunwales and peered forward could see something floating in the water; and
though no one could define exactly what it was with the aid of the sight
alone, yet, by a general consent, it was accepted as the form of the
little girl that had fallen overboard.

A second figure was seen working his way toward the nerveless and silent
one.

The two were no more than fairly out of the path of the steamer, which was
gliding so closely by them that any movement of the wheels would have
endangered both.

Among those who forced their way to the side of the boat was the lad who
gave utterance to the words before recorded. It was natural that he should
be deeply interested when his dearest friend was risking his life to save
another. As soon as the lad on the boat caught fair sight of the other, he
shouted,--

"Hello, Tom! do you want any help?"

"Three chaars for the wee one!" called out an Irishman, boiling over with
enthusiasm, "and if there's a spalpeen on boord that don't jine in, I'll
crack the head of the same, or me name isn't Patsey McConough!"

But the deck-hands had not been idle spectators during the few minutes
since the accident.

Prompt as they had been, the children were, however, so far off at the
moment of tossing over the life-preservers and hurling out the ropes, that
none reached the lad, who was too intent on saving the child to pay any
attention to these little helps, which he did not need.

When the craft stood at a dead halt, the engineer caused a slight and only
partial reverse movement of the wheels, so as to approach the couple.

"Yes, there he comes," shouted a tall fellow, leaning so far over the rail
that he was in danger of falling, "and I'm blessed if he ain't got the
girl!"

Such was the fact, as all perceived the next moment. The boy was
supporting the little form with one hand, while he propelled himself with
the other.

As soon as Tom came within reach, another lasso-like fling was made, the
coil dropping so near the boy that he succeeded in grasping it with his
free hand.

Whoever the little fellow was that was acting the _rôle_, he certainly was
a genius in his way. His presence of mind was almost marvelous.

When the waves from the threshing-paddle so unexpectedly overwhelmed him,
he had just time to draw a deep inspiration before he was environed by
death. The most skillful swimmer in the world cannot sustain himself in
sea-foam, or in the white caps of the breakers. The only safe course when
thus caught is to hold your breath and wait for "solid water," where you
can paddle your own canoe.

Almost any one thus entrapped would have let go the rope and been drowned,
but the boy held on with the grip of death, and as soon as he could catch
a mouthful of fresh air, shouted,--

"Pull up; I'm all right."

A dozen hands were outstretched to help, and the next minute the brave
lad, still holding the senseless girl with one arm, was drawn up on deck,
and received into the crowd, who almost pulled him apart in their frenzied
congratulations.

It was found that the little girl was alive, and carrying her into the
cabin where her mother had just recovered from her swoon, a medical
gentleman announced that there was nothing to fear.

The wheels of the ferry-boat were again in motion, and the slip was
reached, while a hundred men were demanding the name of the young hero,
praising him, offering to make up a purse, hurrahing, and going wild over
what was unquestionably a most praiseworthy deed.

In the midst of the excitement and rattling of chains, the crowd swarmed
off the boat, and the lads were lost sight of.



Chapter IX.



Tom Gordon was not only brave, but he was modest; and he hurried away from
the swarming crowd as soon as he was free of the ferry-boat, for he found
it anything but pleasant to be looked upon and treated as a lion. Turning
off into one of the intersecting streets, the two lads walked along in
silence, when Tom said,--

"Do you know, Jim, I'm half-frozen?"

The rattling teeth emphasized the question.

"I should think you would be. Here's a place of some kind; let's go in and
have something to eat, and you can warm yourself."

Jim led the way; and as he pushed open the green-baize doors, which worked
on springs, he saw they had entered one of those nondescript shops, so
numerous in certain parts of New York, where a person can obtain any kind
of alcoholic drink, a cigar, a lunch, a "square meal," or a night's
lodging, or all.

Jim recognized the resort, and he would have withdrawn but through
sympathy for his shivering companion. The latter could scarcely stand from
cold, his clothing was soaked, and, in the keen air, had congealed so
that it rattled like tarpauling as he walked.

Just back from the door was a large stove, whose bulging, white-washed
cylinder, gleamed red with heat.

Tom immediately stepped up to this and began to thaw himself out.

"Ah, that feels nice!" he laughed to his companion.

"Well, young man, what do you want in here?" asked the bartender, in a
sharp, business-like style, bustling from behind the counter with the
evident intention of "bouncing" the lads.

"I want to get dry and warm," was the reply of Tom, from whose clothing
the steam was beginning to ascend.

"This ain't a shop to dry out boys. Why don't you go home?"

"We haven't any home."

"That's played; go where you stayed last night."

"That's near a hundred miles from here."

Two or three loungers laughed at the rather pert style in which Tom made
his replies, though in truth the lad meant no disrespect. The bartender
turned red in the face, and was angered at being taken up as he was.

"Hello, my wharf-rat, how did you get so wet?"

"In the water."

"He jumped off the ferry-boat to save a little girl," said Jim, seeing
the storm brewing, and desirous of putting in a good word for his friend.

This declaration was received with a guffaw, not one of the hearers
believing a word of it.

"Jumped off to get away from the Bobbies," sneered the bartender. "If you
don't get out of here quicker'n lightning I'll hand you over to them."

"We can go out if you say so," said Tom, in the same good-natured manner;
"but we came in to get our supper and stay all night."

"Have you got the stamps to pay for it?"

"If we hadn't we'd know better than to come in here."

"All right; my terms are a half a dollar apiece for supper and lodging."

"What is it with breakfast?"

"Seventy-five cents."

"We might as well pay you now."

And in his off-hand fashion Tom drew from his water-soaked pocket his
portemonnaie, remarking to Jim that they would arrange it between
themselves, and handed the exact change to the somewhat surprised
bartender and clerk.

That made a difference; and the servant became as obsequious as if he had
just recognized in his visitor a millionaire that had dropped in to spend
a part of his fortune with him.

The boys were hungry, as may be supposed, and they fell to eating like a
couple of famished wanderers. Only a mouthful or two was swallowed when
Jim exclaimed,--

"Hello, Tom; where did you get that gold chain?"

"What are you talking about?" demanded Tom, looking up at his friend.

"I'll show you;" and, as Jim spoke, he reached over and unhooked a tiny
gold chain from the upper button of his friend's coat, around which it was
twined in a singular manner.

More than that, there was a locket attached to it.

"That's the strangest thing I ever heard tell of," said Tom, as he
examined the chain and locket. "I never knew it was there till you spoke."

"You must have got it from that girl in the water, when you helped her
out."

"That's so! Wait here till I come back!" and with this exclamation the lad
sprang up and darted outdoors.

He was gone but a short time, when he returned.

"I've been down to the ferry-house to see whether I could find the woman
and give her back her jewelry; but nobody there knows anything about her,
and I'll have to keep it till I learn who she is."

On looking at the locket the boys agreed that it was the likeness of the
girl that had so narrowly escaped drowning. They admired it a long time,
after which Tom carefully put it away, and they finished their supper.

The supper finished, the boys sat in the hot room until Tom's clothing was
fully dried, during which process the two were urged to drink fully a
score of times, Tom being assured by several that the only way to escape a
dangerous cold was to swallow a good supply of gin.

Like sensible lads they steadfastly refused, as they had never tasted
spirituous liquors, and never intended to.

Finally, at a late hour, they retired to their humble room, where they
were speedily asleep.

On the morrow it was agreed that they would make this place their
headquarters, while they looked up something to do. They could separate
and spend the day in the search, and return to their lodging-house after
dark, both having fixed the location in their minds, and there being
little excuse for losing their way, even in such a vast city.

Breakfast was eaten early, and the friends separated, not expecting to see
each other till dusk again. Both were in high spirits, for in the clear
sunshine of the winter's morning the world looked bright and radiant to
them. The hurry and rush of Broadway, the crowds constantly surging
forward, each one seemingly intent on his own business, the constant roll
and rumble of trade,--all so different from the more sedate city they had
left behind.

All these were so new and novel to the lads, threading their way through
the great metropolis, that they forgot their real business for a time, and
feasted their eyes and ears for hours.

Finally, they roused themselves and went to work. The experience of the
two, for a time at least, was very similar. Tom first stopped in a
dry-goods house, and asked whether they could give him anything to do. A
short "No" was the reply, and the proprietor instantly turned his back
upon him. Then he tried a drug-store, where he was treated in the same
manner. In a hat and cap store, the rotund clerk tried to chaff him, but
he didn't make much of a success of it. In answer to his question, the
clerk replied that he didn't need a boy just then, but when he did he
would send his carriage around to the Metropolitan for him.

When Tom timidly introduced his errand to an old gentleman in spectacles,
as he sat at his desk in a large shipping-office, the old fellow exclaimed
in an awed voice,--

"Great Heavens, no! I don't want to hire any boy."

And so it went, hour after hour, until the future, which had looked so
beautiful in the morning, gradually became overcast with clouds, and the
poor lad was forced to stop and rest from sheer weariness.

He kept it up bravely till night, when he started on his return to his
lodgings. He found on inquiry that he was several miles distant, his
wanderings having covered more ground than he supposed. He had made over
thirty applications, and in no instance had he received one grain of
encouragement. In more than one case he had been insulted and ordered from
the store, followed by the intimation that he was some runaway or thief.

No wonder that Tom felt discouraged and depressed in spirits as he rode
homeward in the street-car. He was so wearied that he dropped down in one
corner, where he soon fell asleep, not waking until he had gone fully two
miles beyond the point where he should have left the vehicle. This sleep
so mixed him up that it was nearly ten o'clock when he reached his hotel,
as we may call it.

He was hopeful that Jim would have a better story to tell; but to his
amazement, he found that his friend, despite the lateness of the hour,
had not yet come back. A shiver of alarm passed over Tom, for he was
certain that some dreadful evil had befallen him.

Most likely he had been waylaid and killed in some of the hundred
different ways which the police reports show are adopted by the assassins
of New York in disposing of their victims.



Chapter X.



Tom's anxiety for his comrade drove all thought of sleep from his eyes for
the time; and he sat long in the hot, smoky air of the room down-stairs,
in the hope that Jim would come.

It seemed to the watcher that there was an unusually large number of
visitors in the house that evening. There was a great deal of drinking and
carousing going on, and many of the men gathered there, he was sure,
belonged to the lowest grades of society.

A half-dozen foreign nations were represented, and one had but to listen
to the talk for a short while to learn that among them were many whom one
might well fear to meet on a lonely road at night.

Tom might have felt some dread but for the fact that, rather strangely,
these men showed little disposition to engage in any brawl, and no one
seemed to notice him.

Late in the evening a couple of policemen came in and waited a while
around the stove. They only spoke to the bartender, who treated them with
the greatest consideration; but they scrutinized the lad with a curious
look, which caused him to wonder whether they held any suspicion of
wrong-doing on his part. They said nothing to him, however, and shortly
after went out.

Tom's great alarm for Jim drove nearly every other thought from his mind.
Late as it was, he would have started out to search for him, could he have
formed the least idea of the course to take; but, besides being a stranger
in the city, he knew that a single man or a hundred might spend weeks in
hunting for one in the metropolis, without the least probability of
finding him.

It was near midnight when he concluded to make his way to the room, hoping
that Jim would show up before morning.

The sounds of revelry below, mingled with shouts and the stamping of feet,
together with the feverish condition of the lad, kept him awake another
hour; but at last he fell into a light, uneasy sleep, haunted by all sorts
of grotesque, awful visions.

Suddenly he awoke; in the dim light of his little room Tom saw the figure
of a man standing by the bed.

"Who are you? What do you want?" whispered the terrified lad, struggling
to rise to a sitting position.

"Mebbe ye doesn't know me, but I'm Patsey McConough, and it was mesilf
that saw ye shtrike out so boldly last night and save the gal that had
fallen overboard, and St. Patrick himself couldn't have done it any better
than did yersilf."

"What do you mean by coming into my room this way?" asked Tom, whose fear
greatly subsided under the words of the Irishman.

"I come up-stairs to wake ye, for I'm afeard ye are going to have trouble
onless ye look mighty sharp."

"What do you mean?"

Patsey carefully closed and bolted the door behind him, and sat down on
the edge of the bed, speaking in a low, guarded voice.

"There's a big crowd down-stairs, and Tim's grog is getting to their
heads, and they're riddy for any sort of a job. There are a couple of
Italian cut-throats, and though I can't understand much of their lingo,
yet I cotched enough of the same to make me sartin they mean to rob ye."

"But would they dare try it in the house here?"

"Whisht now, there isn't anything they wouldn't thry, if they thought
there was a chance of making a ha'pence at it. They've murdered men afore
to-night, and they would just as lief slip up here and cut your wizen as
they would ate a piece of macaroni. Whisht now, and I'll give ye the
partic'lars and inshtruct ye what to do. It wouldn't be safe for ye to git
up and go out, for they'll folly ye and garrote ye afore ye could raich a
safe place. I would stay here and watch with ye, but that I've overstayed
me time alriddy, and I'll catch thunder whin I git back home, 'cause I
can't make the boss belave the raison why I staid. Here's a pistol,"
added the Irishman, shoving a five-shooter into the hand of the
astonished lad, "and ivery barrel is loaded, and it niver misses fire, as
the victims can tell ye as have been hit by the same. Do ye take this,
bolt yer door, and if anybody comes poking in the room after I'm gone,
just bore a hole through him, and then ax him if he ain't ashamed of
himself to steal into a private apartment in that shtyle. Take me word for
it, he won't come agin."

"I should think not," said Tom, who was dressing himself. "But I don't
like the idea of shooting a man."

"Nor do I, but it's loikely to be a chice between shooting him or him
shooting ye, and ye are at liberty to decide."

And with a few parting words of caution the Irishman took his departure,
first pausing long enough to advise Tom to change his quarters if he was
spared until the morrow, and suggesting that the wisest thing he could do
was to get out of New York as speedily as he knew how.

As may well be imagined, Tom Gordon was not likely to fall asleep again
that night, so, having fully dressed himself, he sat down on the edge of
the bed to wait and watch.

A small transom over his door admitted enough light to discern objects
with sufficient distinctness in the room, and he carefully shoved the bolt
in place, feeling he was prepared for any emergency.

Even with such an exciting subject to occupy his thoughts, he could not
fail to wonder and fear for his missing friend. He prayed Heaven to watch
over the boy's footsteps and to prevent his wandering into any danger,
while the feeling that the poor fellow was already beyond all human help
weighed down the heart of Tom like a mountain of lead.

This suspense did not continue long when the watchful lad heard some one
ascending the stairs--an action which might mean nothing or a great deal.

The room occupied by the boy was along a narrow hall, perhaps fifty feet
in length, the apartment being half that distance from the head of the
stairs.

It seemed to Tom that there was an attempt to smother the sound made by
the feet, which plainly belonged to two people, though the effort was far
from being a success.

"They may be going to their own room, after all"--

The heart of the lad gave a great bound, for at that instant the footsteps
paused directly in front of his own door, and he could hear the men
muttering to each other in low tones.

"They're looking for me," was the conclusion of the boy, who grasped his
pistol more rigidly, and rose to the standing posture.

"If they want me, all they've got to do is to take me."

What was the amazement of the youth to see at this moment, while his eyes
were fixed upon the door, the iron bolt slowly move back, without, so far
as he could see, the least human agency.

This was a house, indeed, in which such characters were given every
facility they could wish to ply their unholy vocation.

Immediately after the fastening went back, the latch was lifted, and the
door swung noiselessly inward.

As it did so, a head, covered only with a mass of shock hair, which hung
down like pieces of tarred rope, and with the lower part of the face
veiled by a black, stringy beard, was thrust far enough within to show the
shoulders. Directly behind appeared another face, placed on a shorter
body, but none the less repellant in expression, and the two were forcing
their way into the room, when they paused.

They seemed to conclude that it would be best to consider the matter
further before rushing in there.

Instead of seeing a boy sound asleep in bed, waiting for them to rob him
of all his earthly possessions, they found themselves confronted by a
wide-awake lad, with his revolver pointed straight at their villainous
heads.

"Why don't you come in?" asked Tom, never lowering his weapon.

"Put him down!" said the foremost of the villains, in broken English,
hoping to frighten the lad.

"I don't feel like doing it just now," was the reply, while the arm
remained as fixed as a bar of iron.

Tom did not intend to shoot unless they advanced upon him; but, not being
accustomed to the weapon, he was unaware that a very slight pressure was
enough to discharge it. Unconsciously he exerted that slight pressure,
and, while the miscreants were glaring in the door, the pistol was fired.

What was more, the bullet struck one of the Italians, who, with a howl of
pain, wheeled about and hurried down-stairs, followed by his
terror-stricken companion.

Tom was half-frightened out of his wits, and made up his mind that the
best thing he could do was to get out of the place without any further
delay.

The only way to escape was to go down the stairs, the same as his
assailants had done.

It was not a pleasant duty; but, remembering what the Irishman had told
him, and filled with an uncontrollable aversion against staying any
longer, he hurried out, pausing only long enough to catch up his small
bundle of clothing.

In the smoky, hot room down-stairs, the scene was nearly the same as when
he left it a couple of hours before to go to bed. The two Italians were
invisible, and the little affray up-stairs seemed to have attracted no
attention at all. The bartender was too much occupied to notice the lad,
who made his way outside into the clear, frosty air, where he inhaled a
few deep draughts to give him new life and courage.

He knew not which way to turn, but he was confident he could find some
safe lodging-place without going far, and he moved along the street, where
there were plenty of pedestrians abroad, even though the hour was so late.

He was quite near the river, and determined not to be caught in such a
trap again. He walked slowly, scrutinizing as well as he could the
exterior of each building in sight, where the wayfarer and traveler was
invited to step within and secure food and lodging.

In this manner he passed several houses, and was on the point of turning
into one which seemed to have an inviting look, when his attention was
arrested by a lad who was running toward him from the rear.

He was panting and laboring along as though about exhausted.

As he reached the wondering Tom, who stopped and turned aside to let him
pass, the stranger paused and said,--

"Say, sonny, just hold that watch, will you, till I come back?"

And before the boy fairly understood the question, the other shoved a gold
watch and chain into his hands, then darted into an alleyway and
disappeared.

He had scarcely done so when two swift footed policemen came dashing
along, as if in pursuit.

"Here he is!" exclaimed one, catching hold of Tom's arm, and dealing him a
stunning blow on the head with his locust.

"That's the little imp," added the other, the two guardians of the law
pouncing upon the lad as if he were a Hercules, who meant to turn upon and
rend them.

"I haven't done anything," remonstrated Tom, feeling that some fearful
mistake had been made.

"Shut up, you little thief!" yelled the policeman, whacking him on the
head again with his club. "Ah, here is the watch on him! We've been
looking for you, my boy, for a month, and we've got you at last."



Chapter XI.



When Tom Gordon comprehended that the two policemen had arrested him on
the charge of stealing a gold watch, he understood the trick played upon
him by the lad who had handed him the timepiece and then, darted into the
alley.

Instead of throwing the property away, as a thief generally does under
such circumstances, the young scamp preferred to get a stranger into
difficulty.

"I didn't take the watch; that boy handed it"--

"Shet up!" broke in the burly officer.

"But let me finish what I want"--

"Shet up! Heavens and earth! have I got to kill you before you stop that
clack of yours?"

The lad saw that the only way to save his crown was to keep quiet, and he
did so, trusting that in some way or other the truth would become known,
the guilty punished, and the innocent allowed to go free.

One policeman grasped his right and the other his left arm, and they held
on like grim death as they marched off toward the station-house.

Turning the next corner, they entered a still lower part of the city,
where the darkest crimes of humanity are perpetrated.

Within ten feet of where Tom was walking, he saw under the gas-lamp a
poor wretch on the pavement, with two others pounding him.

"Murder! murder!" groaned the victim, with fast-failing strength, vainly
struggling to free himself from his assassins.

Tom paused, expecting the policemen, or at least one of them, would rush
in and save the man.

On the contrary, they strode along as if they were unconscious of the
crime going on right before their eyes.

"They'll kill him," said the horrified boy, "why don't you stop"--

"Shet up!" and down came the club again.

Just then the second policeman added in a severe tone,--

"Young man, we know you; we understand the trick you are trying to play on
us; you want us to let go of you and rush in there, and then you'll skip;
we're too old birds to be caught with such chaff; we are convinced that a
bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and so, understand, sir, we'll
hold on to you!"

But at this juncture, fortunately for the under man, a champion appeared
in the person of an Irishman, who with one blow knocked the largest of the
assailants so violently backward that he turned a complete reverse
somersault, and then lay still several minutes to try and understand
things.

The other assailant was using his boot-heel on the prostrate man at that
moment, when the Hibernian gave him a couple of blows in lightning-like
succession. They landed upon the face of the coward with a sensation about
the same as if a well-shod mule had planted his two hind feet there.

He, too, collapsed on the instant, and for a considerable time lost all
interest in worldly affairs.

It is hard work to kill a drunken man; and, despite the terrible beating
the victim had suffered, he was scarcely relieved of his foes when he
staggered to his feet.

"I'm obleeged to ye, young man, for assisting me, as ye did"--

"Dry up!" broke in the impatient Hibernian.

"Talk of being obleeged to me, 'cause I interfared. What did ye let them
git ye down fur? That's what I want to know. Git out wid yees!"

And the disgusted champion turned the other fellow about and expressed his
opinion of him by delivering a kick, which landed him several feet away.

"That was kind in yees," said the recipient, looking back with the droll
humor of the Irish people. "They did their hammering in front, while I
resave yees in the rear, and I fale as though they was about equal."

"What's this? what's this?" demanded one of the policemen in a brisk,
business-like tone, swinging his locust, and looking sharply about him,
as if in quest of some desperado upon whom to vent his wrath.

"It looks as if there was some trouble here."

"It's all done with now," replied the man that had finished it, and then,
recognizing the officer, he extended his hand.

"How are ye, Billy?"

"Hello, Pat, is that you?"

"So it is, me, Patsey McConough, that happened down this way on the
lookout for a wee boy, when I saw two men beating one, and I jist restored
the aquilibrium, as ye may say. But what have ye there?" asked Patsey,
peering through the gloom at the figure of a boy in the grip of the other
policeman.

"A chap that we jerked for picking pockets; we've been shadowing him for a
long time."

The Irishman seemed to suspect the identity of the boy, and, going
forward, he took him by the hand, and asked him how it all came about.

Tom told the story as it is known to the reader, when Patsey turned to the
policeman.

"There's some mistake here, Billy; that boy never took that watch--I'll
bet my life on that. I know him, and the story he tells is the true one,
and no mistake."

It didn't take the policeman long to agree with Patsey, and a satisfactory
arrangement was made, by which the faithful guardian kept the gold
timepiece, and the boy was allowed to go free.

"I didn't feel aisy," said Patsey, as he walked off in company with his
young friend, "when I left ye in that place, and I hadn't been gone long
whin I made up me mind to go back and fix it, whither the boss was mad or
no. Whin I arrived the throuble was over, and ye had started out. I had to
guess which way ye wint, but I seemed to hit it, and I was able to do ye a
little hilp."

"That you did, indeed," replied the grateful boy. "I would have gone to
jail but for you."

"Ye same to be a wide-awake boy, and ye kape yer sinses about ye at all
times. Ye are looking for a place to stay?"

"Yes."

"There isn't much of the night left, but I'll find ye what ye want."

A couple of blocks farther, Patsey conducted him into just the house the
boy would have picked out for himself, had he been given a week in which
to hunt.

Patsey accompanied Tom to his room, where he gave him some earnest advice.

"This is a moighty avil village, is New York, and ye had better get out of
the same while ye have the money to do it. It isn't a good thing for a lad
to carry a pistol, but I wish ye to kaap the one I lint ye as long as ye
are in danger, which is loikely to be all yer life."

"My money is nearly all gone," replied Tom, "and unless I get at
something pretty soon, I shall have to beg. I would go out of the city
to-morrow if I only had Jim."

"Perhaps it is as well that ye wait where ye are for a few days for him,
spinding yer laisure in looking for a job. I'm a coochman in the employ of
an old rapscallion of a lawyer, who's stingy enough to pick the sugar out
of the teeth of the flies he cotches in his sugar-bowl. I darsn't bring ye
there, but if the worst comes and ye haven't anything to ate, I'll fix it
some way."

The plan was that Tom should stay in this house, visiting the other
morning and evening in quest of information of Jim, while the sunlight
would be spent in hunting for work.

It would be useless to dwell on the particulars of the several days which
followed. Morning and night Tom went over to the other saloon and inquired
after his missing friend. Each time the bartender replied he had not seen
him, and it was his belief that the boy had "skipped the town," as he
expressed it. The little bundle containing all of Jim's possessions was
given to Tom, who took it away with him, leaving word where his friend
could find him.

Dull, leaden despair filled his heart; and, as he paid his board-bill each
evening, he saw with feelings which can scarcely be pictured, the steady
decrease of his pile, until it was close to the vanishing point.

Five days had passed since he entered the new hotel, during which not a
word was heard of Jim, nor had he seen anything of his friend Patsey
McConough.

It seemed to the boy that he had tramped New York from one end to the
other in his search for work, and in not a single instance had he received
the slightest encouragement. Two vocations, it may be said, were open to
him from the beginning; they were to sell newspapers or to black shoes. To
one of Tom's education and former life, it was the most bitter humiliation
to contemplate adopting either of these employments. But the night came
when he felt he must do it or beg.

He naturally preferred the newspaper line to that of polishing shoes, and
he resolve to make his venture early the following morning.

Tom was unusually strong and active for one of his years, and he expected
to have trouble from the envy of the other boys.

When he purchased his fifty _Heralds_, long before daylight, there seemed
to be an army of newsboys ahead of him, and he was looked upon and
muttered about in the most threatening manner.

He had scarcely reached the sidewalk when he was set upon by a couple of
vigorous gamins, with the evident intent of discouraging him in the new
business.

The others gathered around to see the fun.

They saw it.

The fiery urchins, though both were as large as, and no doubt older than,
Tom, were literally "nowhere" in the fight.

He conquered them in less than a minute without receiving a scratch, and
then, turning to the crowd, remarked that if there was any one or two or a
dozen there that wanted to tackle him, all they had to do was to come
forward. No one came, and Tom sauntered off to sell his newspapers.

It was exceedingly distasteful; but he was spurred on by necessity, and he
went at it with the impetuosity of a veteran.

His success was below his expectations.

There seems to be a right way of doing everything, no matter how
insignificant, which can only be learned by practice. Despite his natural
quickness, Tom failed in more than one respect.

He hadn't the right change in several instances, and the men wouldn't wait
while he darted into a store for it, but bought of some other boy who
thrust himself forward. No matter where he turned, it seemed to the young
hero that some more wide-awake newsboy was ahead of him, leaving only the
aftermath for him to gather.

He boarded several of the crowded street-cars, and was kicked off one of
them because he accidentally trod on a gouty old gentleman's toes, he
being the president of the road.

However, all this, and much more indeed, is the sad accompaniment of the
poor little gamins who fight each other in their strife as to who shall
have the preference in leaving the morning sheet smoking hot at our doors
while we are wrapped in slumber.

After carefully balancing accounts that evening, Tom found he was exactly
seven cents ahead.

On the next day he fell nine cents behind, but on the third there was
exciting war news, and he not only rushed off his usual supply, and the
same number repeated, but he obtained in many instances fancy prices, and
cleared several dollars.

This was encouraging, but the day was marked by the greatest mortification
of his life.

He had rushed in his impetuous manner into a streetcar, when some one
called his name, and he turned about and saw Sam Harper and his sister,
both of whom had been his classmates at the Briggsville school, and Tom
was accustomed to look upon Nellie as a little above ordinary mortals.

Sam shook hands with Tom, and made some jocose remark about his new
business; but Nellie sneered, and looked out the car window.

A high-spirited lad who has experienced anything like this needs not to be
told that it cuts like a two-edged sword.



Chapter XII.



For two weeks Tom Gordon prosecuted his vocation as a newsboy in the city
of New York, by which time he had gained enough experience to earn his
daily bread, but nothing beyond that. Such being the case, he felt that he
was not making a success of his calling, as there was no reserve fund upon
which to draw for clothing or other necessities.

The greater portion of a month wore by, during which he never gained the
slightest knowledge of the fate of Jim Travers.

Tom went to the morgue, and applied to the police, and, in fact, used
every means at his command to learn something. He occasionally encountered
his friend Patsey, who rendered all the assistance he could, but it
availed nothing.

When the fortnight was up, Tom received an unexpected offer, that the
Irishman, through some acquaintance, secured for him. It was the
opportunity to sell newspapers and periodicals on the Hudson River
Railroad. He was to leave New York in the morning, "working the train" on
the way up to Albany, and come down again in the afternoon.

This was such a big advance on what he had been doing, that he joyfully
accepted the offer, even though he held not the slightest intention of
following it as a continuous occupation. It would do very well until he
could obtain something more suitable.

The lad found at the end of the first week that he was much better off
than he anticipated. The privilege was conceded to him of charging double
the price for the papers which was asked on the streets or at the
news-stands, and his percentage of profits was very large.

Tom held his position for a couple of months to the satisfaction of his
employer, and he had accumulated quite a sum, which was deposited in a
savings-bank that wasn't likely to "suspend" for the benefit of the
officers.

Spring had opened, the Hudson was clear of ice, and his business became
quite agreeable.

It happened that he encountered, on several occasions, some of his former
friends of Briggsville, who could not conceal their surprise at seeing him
engaged in selling newspapers.

Tom could not always keep back the flush that stole over his handsome face
at such times. But he began to believe there was a nobility in honest
labor like his, of which he had no right to feel ashamed.

There were any number of young fellows who envied him his position, and
who were ready to use all sorts of artifices to have him "bounced."
Slanderous reports were carried to his employers, who took measures to
investigate them, reaching the conclusion that Tom was without a superior
in the way of integrity, politeness, and faithfulness.

The tiny gold chain and locket obtained from the drowning girl in so
singular a manner, he preserved with a religious devotion. It was
deposited in the savings-bank, beyond all danger of loss, and he would
have starved to death before consenting to part with it.

The sweet face within the locket was as vividly fixed in his memory as if
the original were a sister of his, and he never passed through the train
without looking around, in the hope of seeing the little girl herself.

The only sister which Tom had ever had died in infancy, and there was
something which linked the memory of the two in the tenderest and most
sacred manner.

There were true modesty and manhood in the noble fellow, when he overheard
a visitor in his employer's office relate the incident of the rescue,
without suspecting that the hero stood before him, and never dropped the
slightest intimation that he knew anything about it.

One bright spring morning Tom was passing through the smoking-car, when a
young man, very flashily dressed, whistled to him, and asked for a copy
of a sporting paper.

Tom had but a single copy left. This he tossed over into the lap of the
applicant in that careless, off-hand style which characterizes the veteran
newsboy.

The purchaser passed over a quarter in coin, and as Tom pulled out a
handful of silver from his pocket, from which to select the change, the
flashy young man said,--

"Never mind, sonny; I'll make you a present of that."

"But you have given me five times the price of the paper," said Tom,
thinking there was an error.

"That's all right. When I see a fellow of your style I like to encourage
him."

Tom thanked him and passed on.

The incident would not be worth recording but for the fact that it was
repeated the next day, when the same young man bought a _Herald_, and
compelled the lad to accept a bright silver quarter in payment, without
allowing him to give any change.

Six times on successive days was this done, and then the liberal purchaser
disappeared from the train.

Aside from the repetition of his favors, it was rather curious that on
each occasion he should have placed a silver quarter in the palm of Tom.

Each coin was of the same date as that year, and was so bright and shiny
that Tom believed they must have come directly from the mint. They looked
so handsome, indeed, that he determined to keep them as pocket-pieces,
instead of giving them out in change.

There is nothing like actual experience to sharpen a fellow's wits; and,
on the first day the munificent stranger vanished, a dim suspicion entered
the head of Tom that some mischief was brewing.

That night in New York he examined the coins more minutely than
heretofore. Half an hour later he walked down to the wharf and threw them
into the river.

The whole six were counterfeit. It wasn't safe for any one to carry such
property about him.

Tom was strongly convinced, further, that a job was being "put up" on him,
and he was mightily relieved when thoroughly rid of them.

That same evening one of his employers sent for him, and told him that he
had received reliable information that he, Thomas Gordon, was working off
counterfeit money on the road.

The boy denied it, of course, but he did not choose to tell all he knew,
for he saw that his own situation was a dangerous one; but he demanded
that the proof should be produced.

There was an officer present, who thereupon searched the lad for the
"queer," but he acknowledged there wasn't a penny on him which was not
sound.

Tom was kept at the office while another officer went to his
lodging-house and ransacked his room. The result was _nil_. This rather
stumped the detective, who was acting on the charge of some one else, and
he started off, remarking that the business wasn't done yet, and the best
thing the boy could do was to confess.

"I must first have something to confess," replied Tom, who was excusable
for some honest indignation.

"Where is the man who said I was in _that_ business?"

"You'll meet him in the court-room," was the significant reply of the
detective.

"That's just where I'd like to meet him, and you too, but you're afraid to
try it."

"Come, come, young man, you'd better keep a civil tongue in your head, or
I'll jug you as it is. I've enough against you."

"Why don't you do it, then?" was Tom's defiant question; "I've learned
enough during the last few minutes to understand my rights, and if you
think I don't, now's the time to test it."

The officer went out muttering all sorts of things; and Tom, turning to
his employer, his breast heaving with indignation, said,--

"They have been plotting against me ever since I've been on the road. They
went with all kinds of stories to you, and now they've been trying to make
it appear that I am in the counterfeit business."

"But there must have been something tangible, or that detective would not
have come here with the charge."

"There was something;" and thereupon Tom told the story of the six shining
quarters.

His employer was angered, for he saw through it all; and from the
description of the donor, he recognized a worthless scamp who had been
discharged for stealing some time before Tom went on the route. The
detective was sent for, and the case laid before him. That night Mr. Dick
Horton, who made the charge, was arrested, and in his rooms were found
such proofs against him as a counterfeiter that, a few months later, he
went to Sing Sing for ten years.

For a time succeeding this incident Tom was left undisturbed in the
pursuit of his business, the occurrence becoming pretty generally known
and causing much sympathy for him.

It was about a month subsequent that Tom missed his afternoon train down
the river, and took another, which left later, not reaching New York till
late at night.

[Illustration: It was a fierce drive.]

As there was nothing for him to do, the train being in the hands of
another newsboy, he sat down in the smoking-car, which was only moderately
filled. Directly in front was a man who, he judged from his dress, was a
Texan drover, or some returning Californian He was leaning back in the
corner of his seat, with his mouth open and his eyes shut, in a way to
suggest that he was asleep.

Seated next him was an individual who looked very much like the Italian
who had shoved his head into the door of Tom's room some months before.
This foreigner was watching the Californian--if such he was--as a cat
watches a mouse.

"I believe he means to rob him," was Tom's conclusion, who, without being
suspected by the scoundrel, was taking mental notes of the whole
proceeding.

The supposition was confirmed within five minutes, when the Italian,
leaning over toward the other, in an apparently careless manner, began
cautiously inserting his hand into his watch-pocket.

The instant Tom saw this, he bent forward and shook the Californian's
shoulder so vigorously that he started up, and demanded in a gruff voice
what was the matter. The Italian, of course, had withdrawn his hand like a
flash, and was leaning the other way, with his eyes half-closed, like one
sinking into a doze.

"I saw that man there," said Tom, pointing to the Italian, "with his hand
in your pocket, about to steal your watch, and I thought I'd best let you
know."

"Is that so?" demanded the stranger, a giant in stature, as he laid his
immense hand on the shoulder of the other, who started up as if just
aroused from sleep, and protested in broken English that he was not aware
of being seated with the gentleman at all.

His vehement declarations seemed to raise a doubt in the mind of the
Californian, who began an examination of his pockets. He found everything
right, and so declared.

"He was just beginning operations," said Tom in explanation, "when I woke
you."

"Bein' as he ain't took nothin', I won't knock the head off him," said the
Californian, as he announced himself to be; "but he ain't any business to
look so much like a sneaking dog, so I'll punch him on general
principles."

Whereupon he gave the fellow such a resounding cuff that he flopped out of
the seat, and, scrambling to his feet, hurried out of the car.

The Californian thanked Tom, and then resumed his nap.

In half an hour Tom found the tobacco-smoke so oppressive that he rose to
go into the next car. On the platform stood the discomfited Italian, who
seemed to be waiting for revenge.

"You lie of me," he muttered, before Tom suspected his danger. "I show
you."

With a quick push he gave the lad a violent shove, thrusting him entirely
off the platform and out upon the ground, fortunately clear of the rushing
wheels.



Chapter XIII.



The speed with which the train was running at the time Tom Gordon was
pushed off was such that he was thrown forward with great violence upon
the hard earth, where he lay senseless, with his leg broken and a number
of severe bruises about his body.

The only one who saw his fall was the miscreant that caused it; and it is
not necessary to say he made no alarm, and the train went whirling on to
its destination.

Tom's employers knew nothing of the accident; and putting on a temporary
substitute, they were constrained to believe, after several days' silence,
that he had left their service, some two or three boys coming forward to
declare that they had heard Tom say that such was his intention, as he had
received a good offer on the Erie road. The substitute was given to
understand that his situation was permanent, and the ill-used Tom was thus
thrown out of his situation.

After lying an hour or so on the ground he came to, and finding he was in
a sad plight, he set up a series of yells, which soon brought assistance
in the shape of a passing farmer, who lifted him into his wagon, carted
him home, and played the good Samaritan.

A physician was summoned, the broken limb set, and the patient was told
that all he had to do was to do nothing but lie still and get strong. The
farmer agreed that he should stay there, especially as the patient gave
him to understand that he would pay him for the service.

Here we leave Thomas Gordon for the time in good hands, while we turn our
attention to his friend, James Travers, who has been waiting too long for
notice.

The reader will recall that the morning succeeding the rescue of the
little girl from the river the two boys started out to hunt up something
to do in New York. The experience of both was quite similar through the
greater portion of the day, and we have dwelt fully upon what befell Tom.

Jim, with no better success, and fully as discouraged, set out on his
return, as the cold, wintry night was closing in, and he reached the long,
open street along the river without any incident worth notice; but while
walking wearily along, and when not far from his lodging-place, he was
accosted by a well-dressed man, who placed his hand on his shoulder and
said, in a pleasant voice,--

"I think you are looking for something to do, my son?"

"Yes, sir," was Jim's reply, his heart bounding with renewed hope at the
prospect of employment.

"Are you willing to do anything?"

"Anything that's honest and right."

"I wouldn't ask you to do what was not right," added the stranger, as if
he was hurt at the idea.

"What is it you want me to do?"

"How would you like to work on a vessel?"

"I was never on a ship in my life," said Jim, frightened at the thought of
the perils of the sea.

"That don't make any difference: you wouldn't have to serve as a sailor,
but as a sort of a cabin-boy; and not exactly that, either. I am the owner
of the boat, and want a clerk--a boy who can write letters, keep my
accounts, and make himself generally useful. I like your looks, and you
impress me as a boy of education."

"I think I could do all you ask; but where does your vessel sail?"

"Oh, she ain't a foreign ship, only a small schooner, engaged in the
coasting-trade down along the Jersey shore, sometimes going as far as the
capes, and occasionally making a trip up the Hudson. As navigation has
closed on the river, we sha'n't go up there before Spring."

"I think I would like the job," said Jim, who felt as if the vision shown
by Aladdin's lamp was opening before him. "What pay will you give if I
suit you?"

"I am willing to pay well for the boy. It will be twenty dollars a week
and found"---

"What!" exclaimed the astounded Jim, "did you say twenty dollars a
_week_?"

"That's just what I said. I'm one of those who are willing to pay well for
what they want."

"I'll take the situation; when do you want me to go?"

"As soon as possible--what do you say for to-morrow?"

"That will suit, as I have nothing in the world to do; I only want to run
down to the hotel and tell Tom."

"Who's Tom?"

"He's the boy that came with me from home; he'll be mightily pleased when
he hears the news."

"Suppose you walk down with me, and take a look at the boat; it isn't far
off."

As Jim could see no reason for refusing, and as he hadn't the slightest
thought of wrong, he replied that he would be glad to accept the
invitation; and the two started off toward the wharves.

The well-dressed gentleman, who gave his name as Mr. Hornblower, kept up a
running chat of the most interesting nature to Jim, who was sure he was
one of the finest persons he ever met. The walk was considerably longer
than Jim expected, and the man acted as if he had lost his way. He finally
recovered himself, and, pausing where a number of all kinds of boats were
gathered, he said that his schooner, the Simoon, lay on the outside, and
was to be reached by passing over the decks of several other boats.

These lay so close, that there was no difficulty or danger in traveling
over them, and they soon reached the deck of a trim-looking schooner,
which was as silent and apparently as deserted as the tomb. Reaching the
cabin, a light was seen shining through the crevices, and Mr. Hornblower
drew the small door aside, and invited his young companion to descend.

Jim did so, and found himself in an ordinary-looking cabin, quite well
furnished, and supplied with a couple of hammocks.

A small stove was burning, and the temperature was exceedingly pleasant
after the bleak air outside, where the raw wind blew strongly up the bay.

"I wouldn't want a better place than this to stay," said the delighted
lad, taking a seat on a camp-stool.

"Then I'll let you stay a while."

These strange words were uttered by the man who stood outside the door,
looking in at the lad with an odd smile on his countenance.

"What do you mean?" asked Jim, filled with a terrible fear.

"I mean just this: I want you to stay on the boat for the present. If you
keep quiet and do what is told you, you won't be hurt; but if you go to
howling and kicking up a rumpus, you'll be knocked in the head and pitched
overboard."

"But tell me why you have brought me here?" asked Jim, swallowing the
lump in his throat, and looking pleadingly up to the cruel stranger. "What
do you want of me?"

"We want a big thing of you, as you'll learn before long; but you mustn't
ask too many questions, nor try to get away, nor refuse to do what is told
you. If you do, your clock will be wound up in short order; but remember
what I've told you, and you'll be released after a while, without any harm
to you. I will now bid you good-night."

With this the man shut and fastened the door of the cabin, using a padlock
to do so.

The lad heard his footsteps as he walked rapidly over the deck, leaping
upon those adjoining, and quickly passing up the wharf.

"Well, this beats everything," remarked Jim with a great sigh, sitting
down again on the camp-stool.

As he sat thus in deep thought, it seemed to him, more than once, as if it
was all a hideous dream, and he pinched himself to make sure it was not.

What it all meant was more than he could figure out, or even guess. The
only possible solution he could hit upon was that this Hornblower, as he
called himself, was in need of a cabin-boy, or perhaps a sailor, and he
took this rather summary way of securing one, without the preliminary of
obtaining the consent of the party most concerned.

Whoever Mr. Hornblower might be, it looked as if he had made elaborate
preparations for the game played with such success.

"Poor Tom will be worried to death when he finds nothing of me," was the
natural fear of Jim, while turning over in his mind the extraordinary
situation in which he was placed. Despite the warning uttered by his
captor before leaving, the boy stole up the steps and stealthily tried the
door. It was fastened too securely for him to force it.

As he sat down again in the chair, he heard feet on the deck, and he
concluded that his master had come back to see whether all was right.

But the fellow did not touch the cabin-door; and a minute later the lad
noticed that two men were moving about, then the sounds showed that the
sail was being hoisted. He could distinguish their words as they exchanged
directions, and it was not long before the rippling water told that the
schooner was under way.

"Like enough they have started for China or the Cape of Good Hope, and I
won't see Tom again for years."

He sat still in the cabin, which was lit by a lamp suspended overhead, and
which soon became so warm from the stove and confined air, that he did
what he could to cool off the interior.

He had just finished this when he felt a draught of cold air, and looking
up, saw an ugly face peering down on him from the cabin door.

"Hello, you're down there, are you?" called out the man; "how do you like
it?"

"It's getting rather warm," answered Jim, hoping to make the best of a bad
business.

"If you find it too hot, come on deck and air yourself."

The lad accepted the invitation, and hastily ascended the few steps, his
chief object being to learn where he was.

Looking about in the gloom, he observed a ship under full sail on the
right, and a little farther off one on the left. In the former direction
he thought he discerned a faint dark line close to the water, which he
supposed showed where the shore lay.

"Then we are putting out to sea," was his conclusion, while he shivered in
the keen wind which swept over the deck.

The schooner had her mainsail and foresail up, both bellying far outward
under the impulse of the wind, while the hull keeled far over to the right
in response, and the foaming water at the bow told that she was making her
way at high speed toward her destination, wherever that might be.

As well as Jim could make out in the gloom, neither of the two men who
were managing the vessel was Hornblower.

"Where are we bound?" asked the prisoner, turning upon the one who
invited him to come out of the cabin.

"To the moon," was the unsatisfactory response.

Jim said no more, for he was afraid he might offend the fellow by pressing
his inquiries.

"I guess you'd better go below and sleep, for the likes of you ain't of
any use here."

The boy did as advised.

He saw no preparations for eating, but he was so wearied and anxious that
he felt little appetite; and, throwing himself in one of the hammocks, he
committed himself to the care of Heaven, and was soon asleep.

He never opened his eyes till roused by the smell of burning meat, and
looking up, saw one of the men cooking in the cabin, instead of on deck,
as it seemed to the lad ought to have been the case.

He now took a good survey of the countenances of the men. They did not
look particularly wicked, though both were hard and forbidding.

They paid scarcely any attention to the boy, but gave him to understand
that he was at liberty to eat if he wished.

Jim did so, and as soon as the meal was finished strolled on deck.

From the direction of the morning sun he saw they were sailing southward,
and the long stretch of land on the right he concluded must be the Jersey
coast.



Chapter XIV.



Such a bleak and piercing wind swept across the deck of the Simoon that
Jim Travers was glad to spend most of his time in the cabin, where a warm
fire was always going.

The first day out the boy succeeded in picking up a few scraps of
knowledge, which served rather to deepen than to clear up the mystery of
his abduction.

The schooner was a good sailer, and was well furnished with coal, wood,
water, and provisions, as if she were intended for a long voyage. There
was no real cargo, as he could see; and the two men who managed the craft
did not drop a word which could give any clew as to their destination.

It can scarcely be said that they treated the boy well or ill. Their
conduct was more of the character of indifference, since they paid not the
least attention to him, further than to notify him to keep out of their
way.

This indifference might be considered kindness, inasmuch as it relieved
the boy from attempting work which would have proven of a perilous nature.
This also relieved him in a great measure of the fear which made existence
a burden during the first twenty-four hours.

On the third morning out from New York, Jim made the discovery that the
rising sun was on his right, from which it was certain he was sailing
toward the north. Other evidence led him to conclude, from his knowledge
of geography, that they had entered Delaware Bay, and were approaching
Philadelphia.

"It's a queer way of getting back home again," was the reflection of the
boy when convinced of the fact.

However, the Simoon did not propose to visit the Quaker City just then,
and she came to anchor in a broad part of the bay, fully a half-mile from
shore.

It was late in the afternoon that this stop was made; and just as night
was closing in, a small boat containing two persons was discerned rowing
out from land. When they were nigh enough to board the schooner, Jim saw
that one was Mr. Hornblower, and the other was a herculean negro, who was
swaying the oars with the ease of a professional.

As both came on deck, the white man signified to the lad that he was to
follow him into the cabin, where the door was shut, and they sat down
facing each other.

"I might as well own that I deceived you when I pretended I wanted to hire
a clerk," began Hornblower, "but I had good reason for doing so; that
reason I can't give for the present. Now," and here Mr. Hornblower took a
pencil and note-book from his pocket, "I want to know your full name and
exact age."

These were truthfully given and carefully written down.

"Now I want to know all about your parents, their age, your father's
business, and various other matters which I shall ask you."

Jim had no reason to decline any information he was able to give, and he
furnished all his captor desired to know.

When the examination was finished, the note-book was closed, and Mr.
Hornblower asked, in the most friendly of tones,--

"Have they used you well?"

"They have," was the truthful reply.

"Do you know why?"

"I suppose because you instructed them to do so."

"It's not that, but because you behaved yourself; you haven't made any
trouble."

"I don't intend to do that, for there's nothing to gain by it. I haven't
any work to do, and may as well stay here as anywhere else."

"Remember what I told you; so long as you keep quiet you are safe, but
only on those conditions."

As the man rose to go, Jim plucked up enough courage to ask,--

"Will you be kind enough to let me know where we are going, and why it is
you make a prisoner of me?"

"Since you have behaved so well I suppose I might as well do so."

Hornblower opened his mouth to impart the information, when he changed his
mind and shook his head.

"It is scarcely best at present; good-evening."

As there seemed to be no objection to following him on deck, Jim did so,
much disappointed that he did not secure the information which was almost
his.

Hornblower stepped down into a boat and rowed off toward shore, leaving
the huge negro behind. It had become so dark that the boat, with its
single occupant, speedily faded from view in the night, though the sound
of the regularly swaying oars came back distinctly across the water until
shore was reached.

Jim was glad that the African, whom he heard addressed as Sam, was left
behind. He saw he was a good-natured fellow, and he believed he would be
able to gain something from him.

After supper was eaten, the schooner hoisted anchor and moved several
miles up the river, when it again lay to for the night.

Jim Travers went to bed again as much mystified as ever over the
explanation of his imprisonment on board the boat. Aside from this
inscrutable ignorance there was nothing very unpleasant, and he would have
been willing to make quite a lengthy stay, whether he received any wages
or not.

During the bitter cold weather, any one situated as he was might be
thankful if he could secure lodging for the winter.

"They needn't be so afraid of my running away," he often said to himself,
"for I would not be so foolish as to do that when I don't know where to
go. All that I wish is that they would give me the chance to send a letter
to Tom and let him know where I am. The poor fellow must be greatly
worried over me."

He ventured to ask whether he would be permitted to send a letter ashore,
but the refusal was given in such an angry manner that he regretted making
it.

Several days now followed, during which the schooner beat up and down
Delaware Bay without making a landing.

One night the vessel was caught in such a terrific blow that she came
within a hair of being driven on the Jersey shore. The two men, however,
were fine sailors, and assisted by the negro Sam, who was also an expert,
they safely rode through the gale.

In the course of a week they approached the wharves at Philadelphia, where
they were boarded by the proper officers. The latter seemed to find
everything all right on board the schooner, and departed, apparently
without noticing the boy standing near, who watched their motions with
great interest.

The Simoon lay at the wharf all night, which was unusually mild for that
season of the year.

The cabin door was open and the negro was on duty, while one of the men
was asleep in the hammock over Jim's head.

The second sailor had gone up-town somewhere, and there was no telling
when he would return.

The lad was nearly asleep, when he heard footsteps on deck; and in the dim
light from the lamp he observed the missing sailor coming down the steps,
followed closely by Hornblower. When they were fairly within they shut the
door, and the seaman turned up the wick of the lamp overhead.

A fancy struck Jim at this moment that he would pretend he was
unconscious, though he had little hope of gaining anything by it.

As soon as the light filled the apartment, Hornblower looked over at the
two forms stretched out in the hammocks, and asked in a whisper,--

"Are they asleep?"

The sailor leaned over each in turn, and carefully surveyed the features
and listened to the breathing.

"Yes; they don't know any more than a couple of logs."

"I wouldn't have the boy overhear us for the world."

"There ain't any danger of that."

Thus believing, the two men talked business straight along.

"It won't do to stay here any longer," said Hornblower.

"Why not?"

"Because it's dangerous; you was such a fool yesterday as to allow the boy
on deck when the officer was there, and he couldn't help noticing him."

"But they didn't speak to each other, and if the officer had suspected
anything he would have showed it."

"Maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't; you must know that the boy's
photograph has been scattered over the country, and he is likely to be
recognized by any countryman."

"How are you making out with the negotiations?"

"It all looks well enough, if you don't spoil it by your tomfoolery. I
should not have been surprised to find you had allowed him to go ashore to
look around a little. You must leave here to-morrow morning. You ought to
start to-night."

"I can do so if you wish it," said the sailor, rather sulkily.

"It might draw suspicion to you. No, you can wait till daylight, and then
be off."

"It shall be done."

"We have managed to throw everybody off the scent pretty well. They seem
to have all sorts of theories except the right one. It has got into the
newspapers, of course. Some think the boy has been taken to England,
others that he is in the South, and others have sworn that he has been
seen in company with a man and woman in Canada; but no one imagines as yet
that he is on board the schooner Simoon, in the Delaware."

"How have you made out in your correspondence with the guardians?"

"They have agreed to give me ten thousand dollars if I restore the boy to
them, and I have concluded to take it; but you understand, Bob, that it's
a mighty delicate matter to handle."

"I rather think it is," growled Bob in reply; "for if they manage to
handle us, we'll fetch up in State prison as sure as we live."

"We'd be glad to get there away from the mob," said Hornblower; "for, the
way people feel over this business, they would act like a lot of famished
lions toward us."

"If they agree to give what you ask, why don't you turn over the chap to
them and have done with the whole business? I'm getting tired of dodging
about in this fashion, never knowing when they're going to drop down on
us, and feeling as if the prison-door was open just ahead. It's got to be
wound up pretty soon, or I'll step out and let you finish it yourself."

"Have patience," said Hornblower in a conciliatory voice; "it will all
come right, for we've the game in our own hands."

"Why the delay, then?"

"There's fear of the police; they mixed in, and they're bound to scoop us
if they can, and cheat us out of the money."

"There's been a big reward offered by the guardians themselves?"

"Yes. The officers have that as well as the glory of victory to urge them
on, and they won't let a chance slip."

"Have you put it to the guardians strong?"

"You'd better believe I have. I told them that at the first attempt they
made to play us false, the boy would be sent home to them in a coffin.
They understand that."

"Then, why don't they play square?"

"They would if it wasn't for the detectives. But with the help of the
parents I think we can pull through all straight."

"In how long a time?"

"Two or three weeks. In the meantime go on south, and I'll keep track of
you and let you know what to do."

With these parting directions the conversation ended. Mr. Hornblower
produced a flask of whisky, the two drank each other's health, and the
visitor departed.

Shortly after Bob, the sailor, turned in for the night.



Chapter XV.



Jim Travers, as he lay in his hammock, overheard every word which the two
men had said, and considerable more to the same effect.

Unusually bright and mentally strong as he was, he comprehended it all,
and read the scheme as if in a printed book.

Hornblower, seeing him making his way along the wharf in New York, had
formed the plan of abducting him, and then securing a large reward from
the parents or guardian for his return. Accordingly he stole and placed
him in charge of his gang on the schooner, and then began negotiations
with the guardians for his return.

Here a strange combination of circumstances came about.

One of the most pathetic facts that came to light regarding the abduction
of Charley Ross, was the great number of other children that have been
found who had been lost for months and years.

There can be no doubt that a regularly organized system of child-stealing
prevails in this country, and there are at this hour hundreds of mothers
and fathers separated from their beloved offspring through the deviltry
of these kidnappers.

Hornblower must have supposed, from the appearance of Jim Travers, that he
was the son of well-to-do parents, who would "come down" handsomely for
his return. The extraordinary part of the business was, that, on the
morning succeeding Jim's abduction, there appeared in the papers an
account of the disappearance of a boy from Philadelphia, with the promise
of a liberal reward for any information that would lead to his return.
This account did not correspond entirely with the circumstances under
which Jim was taken, but the main facts were such that Hornblower was
satisfied he had the right lad in his keeping.

When Hornblower questioned Jim so closely in the cabin and took down his
replies, he had not a particle of doubt that the boy was telling him a
tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end. Toward the close of the
examination, however, it began to dawn on the abductor that possibly he
had made an error. Be that as it might, he was none the less convinced
that he had a bonanza in his hands, and one which could be made to serve
him as well as the original himself.

His captive corresponded so closely to the one advertised that he could be
made to pass muster as such, and the reward secured. This, it would seem,
was almost an impossible task, but Hornblower was confident of success.

This explanation will serve to show why he took the precautions which had
excited the impatience of his confederate, Bob.

Jim Travers did not know all this, but he easily understood from the
conversation of the two conspirators that he had been stolen for the sake
of making money out of his return.

"What a great mistake they have made," he thought; "there isn't any one in
the wide world that would give three cents to have me returned."

He concluded to stay quietly on board the schooner and let matters take
their course, as it did not occur to him that any personal danger might
arise from future complications. Could he have dreamed of what was coming,
he would have jumped overboard and risked drowning in his attempt to reach
land.

Jim had learned enough from the conversation in the cabin to keep him
awake until midnight. It was near morning when he dropped off into
slumber, which was not broken until the forenoon of the succeeding day was
half gone.

When he went on deck, he saw that the schooner was far below the city, and
standing straight toward the ocean. The weather was again cold, so he kept
within the cabin most of the time.

That night the negro Sam complained of feeling unwell, and threw his
massive form into his hammock, in the hope of becoming better after a
short rest. His sickness was not of a serious nature; but when such a big
man falls ill there is a great deal of it, and the African instantly
formed the belief that he was going to die, certain sure.

He groaned, and cried, until Jim himself became frightened, and went on
deck to ask the others to look after him. They replied that there was
nothing the matter with Sam, and that he would soon come around all right.

Jim did his best to relieve the negro, giving him the few simple remedies
at hand, in the hope that he would drop off to sleep. Sure enough, in the
course of half an hour Sam did fall asleep, and when he awoke, an hour
later, was well; and, fully appreciating Jim's kind attentions, said to
him, leaning on his enormous elbow in the hammock,--

"Tell you what, sonny, yous been mighty kind to me, and _I'll remember
you_, dat's what I'll do."

"You would have done the same for me, Sam."

"S'pose I would; but dar ain't many dat would hab done it for me, and I
_won't forget you_. But wasn't I 'bout de sickest coon dat you eber seen?"

"You seemed to feel very bad," replied Jim.

"Feel bad? you'd better beleib I did! Do you know what de matter wid me?"

"No."

"I had de Norf American cholera; dat's worse dan de African. I also had
the pneumonia, and de bronchitis, and de measles, and de small-pox, and
the cholly-wampus--all at the same time. Do you wonder dat I groaned?"

"I shouldn't think you could groan at all, if you had so many diseases as
that."

"Dar's war my toughness and wrastling powers show themselves. I just
wrastled and wrastled, and I frowed 'em all."

Sam swung his huge legs out of the hammock, took a seat near Jim, and,
reaching out, he gently closed his immense fist around the little white
hand of the boy. Then leaning forward until his black face, as broad as
the moon, was almost against Jim's, he whispered,--

"Yous been mighty kind to me, sonny, and, as I obsarved befor', I ain't de
one to forget it. Now, don't you disremember what I toles you. You tink
it's all nice and pleasant here on de boat, and so it am jis' now, but
dar's _breakers ahead!_ Dat boss ob mine am one ob de biggest debbils dat
am runnin' loose. Ef I should tell yous all dat I know 'bout him, your
hair would rose up and stick frough de roof wid horror. Can you swim,
sonny?"

"I am a good swimmer."

"Berry well; I'm mighty glad to hear dat; it's likely dat you'll hab to
swim for your life one ob dese days. Don't roll your eyes so--I don't
mean dat we's going to be wracked. But what I want to say am dat you must
keep mum, and don't let on dat you don't know nuffin. Don't act as though
you and me was much friends when de rest am 'bout, but you know dat I'm
jis' de best one dat you'll eber find."

"I understand all that," said Jim, who saw that the plan was only a simple
precaution against drawing suspicion to them; "but I had no thought that
any one would want to hurt me."

"Yous young, and don't understand dem tings like us better eddycated
gem'man. Old Hornblower am trying to sell you; and if he can't do it, and
tinks dat de ossifers am coming down on him, why he'll jis' chuck you
oberboard and dar'll be de end ob it. You see, yous a purty big boy to
steal, and if he lets you go, he'll be likely to hear from you again."

Jim thanked his new friend from the bottom of his heart, and asked him
what was the best thing to do.

"_Run away!_" was the emphatic reply.

"But I don't get any chance when they're close to shore. I am watched all
the while, and they are so far off at other times that I hardly dare try
it."

"I'll tell yous what to do; jis' wait till I lets you know dat de time am
come."

Jim agreed to this, and the African shortly after went on deck, while the
boy turned in for the night.

From this time forth the captive lost his reckoning altogether, and could
form no definite idea of the part of the world in which they were
cruising. He supposed they were somewhere along the Virginia or North
Carolina coast. At intervals of a day or two they ran in within sight of
some town, and the sailor known as Bob went ashore in the boat.

On these occasions there could be no doubt that he met Hornblower, and
that the schooner was playing her part in a drama which was likely to end
in a tragedy.

Fortified by the presence of such a friend as the negro Sam, Jim
determined to write a note to Tom, telling him what had happened, and
promising to return to him as soon as possible.

He had no trouble securing paper and the occasion; and when finished, he
intrusted the missive to Sam, with the strictest injunctions to drop it
into the office at the first town where he landed.

The negro did his best, and a week later, when he went ashore, he inquired
for the post-office, which he found after much trouble and delay. But he
had lost the letter, and truth compelled him to report the sad fact to his
young friend.

After that Jim did not run the risk of a second attempt.

"Providence will bring me out all right some day," was his conclusion;
"and then Tom and I will talk it all over."

The schooner coasted up and down for weeks and months, until spring.

During this period she had spent days in ports where Jim could not gain
the chance to find out the name of the town even.

Sam's ignorance was so dense that even if he heard the place called out,
he could not remember it ten minutes.

Several times Hornblower had appeared on board the vessel; but he held no
communication with Jim, nor could the latter gain any additional knowledge
of how he was progressing with his negotiations.

In the presence of others there was always a coolness between Sam and the
boy, and it was impossible that either of the sailors should have
suspected the strong friendship that bound the two together.

The fact that the vessel was working her way northward again made Jim
uneasy; for it convinced him that a crisis was at hand, and his fate was
likely to be determined one way or the other very soon.

Sam was of the same belief, as he took occasion to say when the chance
offered. Adding that he would keep his eyes and ears open.

On a beautiful day in spring the Simoon entered New York Bay, and Jim
resolved to seize the first opportunity to escape. The sight of the great
city filled him with such longings to see his old friend Tom, that he
could scarcely conceal his impatience from the others.

A grievous disappointment awaited him.

So strict a surveillance was kept over him, that no artifice was
sufficient to secure the coveted chance.

That night Hornblower was on board, and a long and angry conference took
place forward between him and Bob.

Jim would have given the world could he have learned what it was; but
neither he nor Sam was allowed to catch a single expression.

The next morning the Simoon left the wharf and started up the Hudson. Mr.
Hornblower had decided to effect a "change of venue."



Chapter XVI.



But for the dark fear which impended over him, James Travers would have
looked upon his sail up the Hudson on that spring morning as one of the
most delightful experiences of his life.

The sky was clear as Italy's; the air was balmy, and the steamers and
shipping on the broad stream, as well as the roar of the train thundering
along shore, formed an element in the romantic scenery which has well
given the name of the Rhine of America to that noble river.

But the boy had little heart for all these. He was speculating upon the
probabilities of the near future.

It was during the afternoon, while gliding up the river, that they passed
so close to a downward-bound steamer that the features of the passengers
on deck were plainly seen.

Jim was leaning idly on the gunwale, looking at them, when he observed a
lady, with a child seated beside her, the mother pointing out to the child
the varied beauties of the scene as they moved swiftly by. He straightened
up on the instant, as if he had received an electric shock; for the
conviction came like a flash that he had seen the face of that child
before.

But where? He might as well have asked himself what there was in such a
sweet, angelic countenance to affect him so strangely.

Ah! he had it. That was the girl that Tom had rescued from the icy water
the winter before.

Going in opposite directions, and with such speed, the steamer and
schooner were soon far apart, and the straining gaze of the lad was unable
to tell where the mother and child were seated.

The two had not even looked at him, and he could only sigh that the
glimpse was such a passing one.

"I wonder whether Tom has ever seen them since. He would be a great deal
more delighted than I."

The Simoon sailed steadily upward till the day wore by, by which time she
was a good many miles above the metropolis.

It was no more than fairly dark when Sam managed to whisper in the ear of
the boy,--

"_You mus' leab de boat to-night!_"

These were alarming words, though the lad could not understand how harm to
him was to benefit any one, unless it was that Hornblower and his
confederates were afraid of the consequences of discovery, and prefered to
act on the principle that dead boys can tell no tales.

The night was pleasant, with a faint moon, and the Simoon dropped anchor
within a few hundred yards of shore.

The distance was one that Jim could swim with ease. All he asked was the
opportunity.

The two sailors seemed to suspect some scheme of escape was in the boy's
head, or else they must have noticed the chance was a very tempting one.

"Why should they think I want to run away," Jim asked himself, "when I've
had a hundred chances before to-day?"

Why it was they were more than usually careful it was hard to understand;
but that such was the fact could not be overlooked.

It might be they were watching for the arrival of some one else, or,
knowing that something important was on hand for that night, they were on
the alert.

Poor Sam was in a state of great agitation, and made an awkward attempt to
assist his young friend.

He offered to act as watch through the night, but the offer was declined.

They intended to keep the decks themselves.

"Dar's mischief a-brewin'," he whispered, "and yous had better git out ob
dis unarthly place jist as quick as de good Lord will let you."

Which was precisely what Jim meant to do, as soon as Providence would open
the way.

As the only chance was by a bold stroke, and as there was no telling the
precise moment when the danger would burst upon him, Jim Travers did not
wait long.

Creeping softly up the short stairs, Jim raised his head barely enough to
see where the crew were.

The two sailors were standing aft, talking together in low tones. Probably
they were discussing at that very moment the best plan of disposing of the
boy, who had become a dangerous encumbrance to them and their employer.

It was more than likely that Hornblower had failed in his attempt to
secure a ransom for the child, who was not the one for whom the other
parties were negotiating.

The age of the captive was such that his liberty would prove fatal to his
abductors.

Sam, the burly negro, was leaning against the mainmast, probably torturing
his thick skull as to the best means of helping his young friend, whom he
loved so well.

Jim saw enough, and, creeping out of the cabin, he crawled down over the
rudder, upon which he rested a few seconds, while he made ready for his
venture. He could see the dark bank, and he wished that the moon would
hide itself behind a thick cloud, the better to give him a chance. But the
sky was clear, and it might be fatal to wait any longer.

With a muttered prayer to Heaven not to desert him in his peril, he let
himself down in the river, and struck out for the shore. He proceeded with
all the care and stillness of which he was capable; but he had taken no
more than half a dozen strokes, when he was seen by both the sailors.

"Hello! what's that?" asked Bob, running to the stern of the vessel, and
peering over in the gloom.

"I guess it am a whale," suggested Sam, anxious to befriend the lad.

"A whale!" repeated the man with an oath, "it's that kid. Hello, there!
Stop, or I'll shoot you!"

And he pointed his revolver at the head of Jim, who, instead of heeding
the command, sank beneath the surface, swimming as far as he could before
coming up. When he reappeared he was a dozen yards from the schooner.

The very moment he came up the villain discharged two shots from his
pistol directly at his head.

"Look out, or dey'll hit yous!" called Sam, unable to repress his
solicitude for the boy.

Could the miscreant finish the lad when swimming, it would be as good a
way as any to dispose of him.

It looked as if he had succeeded, for Jim uttered a groan, and sank out of
sight.

But it was only a trick intended to deceive the sailor.

The latter observed the head as it reappeared, still nearer shore, and he
fired again, two shots, as before. The other sailor, fearful of a miss,
was hastily lowering a boat.

He worked so expeditiously that the craft dropped into the water the next
minute. Both sprang into the boat, and began rowing with might and main in
pursuit of the fugitive.

Poor Sam could only stay on deck, in a torment of fear, while he prayed
the good Lord to protect the boy.

When the little boat left the side of the larger one, Jim Travers had
improved the precious moments to the utmost.

He had already passed over the greater part of the intervening distance,
and never in all his life did he swim as now. And there was need of it,
for the pursuers were determined he should not escape them.

Providentially, none of the bullets had struck him, though one or two had
passed very near.

Jim cast a terrified glance over his shoulder, and saw the boat coming
with great speed toward him.

There was no escape by diving, for there was too much light from the moon.

He must reach land far enough in advance to give him an opportunity to
flee or hide himself.

A second after, Jim dropped his feet, and they touched bottom.
Straightening up, he found the water reached only to his waist; and, with
all the strength of which he was master, he fought his way to dry land,
and hurried up the bank.

The pursuers were close behind him, and both fired, the boat being so
near that the impetus already given by the oars carried it hard against
the shore.

It was the best spot possible for the fugitive to land, being covered with
wood and undergrowth, extending almost to the verge of the river itself.

Directly into this Jim plunged and ran with the speed of a frightened
deer, until he had gone a few rods, when he darted to one side, ran a
little farther, and dropped flat on his face. For a moment, while he lay
listening, he heard nothing but the thumping of his own heart, which he
feared would betray him.

In the silence he wondered what had become of his pursuers.

Had they given up the chase, believing the fugitive was gone beyond
recovery?

Jim had no more than asked himself the question when he heard them moving
through the undergrowth, a great deal closer than was agreeable. Worse
still, they were approaching him, and discussing the question while doing
so.

"He didn't run far," said one, whose voice the lad recognized as belonging
to Bob.

"No; he must be hiding somewhere close by; we've each a charge left, and
we'll keep it ready to fire when he shows himself."

"Yes, he must be somewhere around here, and we'll scare him up before
long," was the assuring expression.

It looked very much as if they would keep their word, and Jim was sure he
would have to move his quarters to escape discovery. This was a matter of
exceeding difficulty, for the wretches were listening for some such noise,
which would betray their victim.

They seemed to be pursuing the hunt in a scientific manner, by walking
back and forth over a certain area, gradually verging to the right, which
was where Jim was crouching.

The boy succeeded in creeping a dozen feet, perhaps, without drawing
attention to himself, when he was brought to a standstill by coming
squarely against a fence, whose rails were too close together to allow his
body to pass through.

Jim was in an agony of fear, for the two were steadily drawing near him.

When he was in despair there came the flutter of a bird in precisely the
opposite direction, and the suspicion of the sailors immediately turned
thitherward.

This was Jim's golden opportunity, and he was over the obstruction in a
twinkling. But the fates seemed against him. Just as he left the top rail,
it broke with a loud crash; and, feeling that everything now depended on
his fleetness, he made his legs do their duty. Once over the fence, the
fugitive found he was in the broad, open highway, along which he darted
like a lad whose life was at stake.

As there was a light gleaming only a short way ahead, his enemies must
have seen that it was hardly a safe thing to pursue their evil intent any
farther.

Dreading they would not stop, Jim kept up his headlong flight, dashing
through the open gate, without a pause for dogs, and giving so resounding
a knock on the door that the old farmer instantly appeared, wondering what
in the name of the seven wonders could be the matter.

"Can I stay here over night?" asked Jim, panting with terror; "a couple of
bad men are after me."

"Yes, certainly, my boy; come in. I've one patient now, but you are
welcome. My other boy is well enough to sit up."

Looking across the room, the astounded Jim saw his old friend, Tom Gordon,
sitting in an easy-chair, with one leg bandaged, as though suffering from
a hurt.



Chapter XVII.



The meeting between Tom Gordon and Jim Travers was one of the most joyous
character.

As soon as the fugitive recognized his old friend, he uttered a cry of
delight, and rushing forward, threw his arms around his neck, and the
latter responded with a regular shout of happiness.

Then they laughed and asked and answered questions for some ten minutes,
both in such a flutter of excitement, that their stock of knowledge was
scarcely increased in the least.

By the time they got down to their sober senses, Jim awoke to the fact
that a couple of bad men were after him, and were likely to pursue him
across the threshold of the farmer's home.

There was no one present during the affecting interview between the lads
excepting the kind host, and he was so touched by the joy of his guests
that he more than once drew his hand across his face in a very expressive
manner.

When Jim explained his peril, telling how it was he escaped to this place,
the farmer said,--

"You may bid farewell to all earthly fear while you're here with me. The
old woman is over to one of the neighbors', and there ain't no one home
but me; howsomever, I'm equal to any two."

Just then the gate was heard to shut, and the farmer stepped hurriedly to
the window and looked out.

"Yes, there's two men coming up the path."

"They're after me," said the frightened Jim; "let me run out through the
back way; I can get away from them."

"You won't do any such thing," was the resolute reply of the old man,
while he compressed his lips, and his eyes flashed resolutely.

"This is _my_ home, and the law says it is my castle; and if any man
attempts to cross that threshold against my orders, on his head be the
consequences."

By way of making matters consistent, he stepped briskly into the next
room; and when he returned, which was in the course of three seconds, he
held a loaded double-barreled gun in his grasp.

"It's well to have something like this to sorter emphasize what you say,
you know--hello!"

The scoundrels were at the door, and a resounding knock was heard.

"Come in," called back the old man, who stood in the room, gun in hand.

Instead of opening the door, the criminals on the outside knocked again,
their evident purpose being to gain an advantage by bringing some one to
them.

"Come in!"

This was uttered in a tone that could be heard a hundred yards, and those
who were applying for admission could not pretend to be ignorant of such a
lusty welcome as that.

The latch was lifted, the door shoved inward, and there the two sailors
stood, each with a revolver in hand, looking into the room, but neither
venturing to step over the threshold.

We have stated where the farmer stood, and what his pose meant.

Tom Gordon was nearly recovered from his fractured leg, and he, too, had
risen from his chair with his pistol in hand. He told Jim to get as near
him--or rather behind him--as he could, and if there was to be any
shooting, why, he would take a hand.

The sailors could not fail to take in the fact that the three were on
their mettle, and something more than a summons was necessary to bring
them to terms.

"Well, what do you want?" asked the farmer, in a voice like a growl, while
he lowered upon them in the most ominous style.

"We want that boy," replied Bob, the sailor, pointing his pistol at the
fellow, whose heart beat a little faster when he found himself confronted
by such danger.

"Do you want to go with them?" asked the farmer of the boy.

"No; they mean to kill me; they've tried it already, and you can see that
my clothes are still wet from jumping into the river to swim away from
them."

"He belongs to us. We don't wish to hurt him; but he must go with us. If
he refuses, we shall take him, and it will be bad for you."

"It will, eh?" muttered the farmer, a peculiar click, click, where his
hand grasped the gun, showing that he was cocking the weapon, so as to be
ready for business. "It will, eh? Now I'll give you just two seconds and a
half to take yourselves out of my sight, and if you don't, I'll empty both
barrels of this gun into you."

"Let me know when you're going to shoot, Mr. Pitcairn," said Tom, also
cocking his revolver, "because I want to join in."

The sailors, with some muttered imprecations, wheeled about and took
themselves off, leaving the three masters of the field.

This danger removed, the boys sat down, and while the farmer went out to
attend to some work about the premises, they talked coolly and sensibly
over the past and future.

Tom was almost entirely recovered from the hurt to his leg, and expected
to leave the house in the course of a few days.

He had written to and received a letter from his employers, notifying him
that his situation was gone and there was none to give him.

So his future was as uncertain as that of Jim, who had not received a
penny since leaving home the winter before, and who had not the remotest
idea as to what he should do.

Jim had a small sum of money with him, and his other clothes were still
preserved by his friend.

As Tom was the owner of some extra garments, these were donned by the
fellow who had received such a ducking; and, as the room was pleasantly
warm, he experienced no inconvenience from his bath.

Tom had also quite a sum in the savings-bank, and though he was reluctant
to call upon it, yet there was enough to provide both against any want.

Tom said Farmer Pitcairn was a kind man, and thought he should be paid
something for his entertainment of the wounded boy, as was manifestly his
due; yet he would treat them as well without the slightest compensation.

When the farmer came in, and the case was laid before him, he said that he
could make use of Jim at once, and of Tom as soon as he should be able to
go around, and they might remain on the farm as long as they chose.

The life of a young farmer was not very attractive to either of the lads,
but they concluded to fall back on it until they could find some more
agreeable opening.

There was some fear that the two sailors would show themselves again and
make trouble, but nothing more of them was ever seen.

When Jim related the story of his abduction, Tom and Mr. Pitcairn boiled
with indignation, and insisted on a prosecution of the scoundrels,
including Mr. Hornblower, who could easily be reached by the strong arm of
the law.

On mature reflection, however, the scheme was abandoned.

Jim made himself as useful as he could; and being unusually bright and
quick to learn, he disappointed the farmer with his readiness in picking
up the hundreds of mysterious little things which make up the farmer's
life.

He learned to milk the cows, to drive the plow, to ride the most fractious
horses, and to break the fiery young colts; he knew precisely how to look
after the horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, fowls, and everything at night and
in the morning.

As Tom regained the use of his limb, he joined him in this pursuit of
knowledge, which had a great many pleasant features about it.

They became expert in the use of the gun, and as one of the neighbors
owned a rifle which he was willing to lend, they practiced until they
grew quite skillful in the use of that weapon.

The pistol afforded another branch of the science of projectiles, and, as
the revolver was an unusually good one, they also became remarkably expert
in the use of that little "bulldog."

Jim visited the city a short time after his arrival at the farmer's, and
brought back all the property belonging to himself and Tom, as well as the
money deposited in the savings-bank.

This latter move was one of the best they ever made. Two days after, the
bank in which the deposit was made went to pieces, the depositors,
consisting mainly of the poorer classes of people, losing all, while the
officers retired with plethoric pockets to wait till the storm should blow
over.

During these beautiful days the lads held long and earnest conferences as
to what they should do, for they had reached an age wherein there was
little time to spare.

They discussed the plan of learning some useful trade, and decided to do
so; but, after several attempts to secure the opportunity, all resulting
in failure, they gave it up, concluding that the fates had not intended
them for such a life. They could not bring themselves down to the plan of
remaining farmers all their days.

Tom would have liked to become a lawyer, and Jim inclined to the
profession of medicine; but being without friends to secure the openings,
they were compelled to give them the go-by, for the present at least.
Another occupation seemed peculiarly attractive to them; that was one
where each could make use of his skill in penmanship, something in the way
of clerical work. In the pursuit of this phantom they learned the rather
mournful fact that every such situation in the United States has from ten
to a hundred applicants.

The boys became well satisfied that Farmer Pitcairn was allowing them to
remain with him under the pretense of work, when the real truth was that
they were more of a hindrance than a help. This knowledge made them
uncomfortable, and caused them to resolve that it should not continue.

The spring wore along until the mild summer came, and still the boys
remained with Farmer Pitcairn.



Chapter XVIII.



One night Jim Travers talked a great deal in his sleep. His tossing awoke
Tom Gordon several times and caused him some anxiety, which was increased
when he touched his friend's cheek and found him suffering with a burning
fever. Toward morning Jim's restlessness partly subsided, and he fell into
a fitful slumber. Tom dropped off, and did not awake until he heard his
friend astir.

"What's the matter?" asked the elder, sitting up in bed and looking in a
scared way at Jim, who having partly dressed himself, was sitting on the
side of the couch.

"I don't know; I feel awful queer; my head is light; I saw father and
sister Maggie last night: did you see anything of them?"

"No; you were dreaming."

"They were here; father came in the room and looked at me, but did not
speak and went away, but Maggie took hold of my hand and asked me to go
with her. Wasn't it strange, Tom, that she should come back after all
these years? I saw her as plain as I do you."

Tom was frightened. Swallowing a lump in his throat, and hiding his
agitation as best he could, he said gently,--

"Jim, you are ill. Lie down on the bed again and I'll call Mrs. Pitcairn."

"I'm afraid there is something the matter with me," muttered the younger
lad, lying down, his face flushed and his eyes staring. He said something
which showed his mind was wandering and he had become flighty.

Tom hastily donned his clothing and hurried downstairs to the farmer's
good wife, who lost no time in coming to the room of the boys. By this
time Jim had lost all knowledge of his surroundings. He was muttering and
saying all sorts of strange things, speaking of his father, of his sister
Maggie, and even of his mother, who died when he was a very small boy.

Mrs. Pitcairn had no children of her own, but she had had great experience
in the sick-room. She saw, almost at a glance, that Jim Travers was
suffering from a violent and dangerous fever. She prepared him a bitter
but soothing draught of herbs, and told her husband a physician must be
brought without delay.

Farmer Pitcairn felt a strong affection for the two lads, whose singular
coming beneath his roof has been told. He was as much concerned as his
wife, and, harnessing his horse, drove off at a swift pace for the family
doctor, who appeared on the scene a couple of hours later.

"He is ill, very ill," said the physician; "his fever is of a typhus
character, though not strictly that. There has been considerable of it
this spring and summer in New York."

"Is it contagious?" asked the farmer.

"Somewhat; though it seems to be more of the nature of an epidemic; that
is, it travels through the air, appearing without special reason at one
place, and then at another. We have had three cases in the neighborhood
the past fortnight."

"What was the result?" asked Mrs. Pitcairn.

"One was Mrs. Wilson, an elderly lady; the other her grandson, and a
nephew of Mr. Chisholm," replied the doctor, not answering the question.

"What was the result?" repeated Mr. Pitcairn for his wife.

The doctor shook his head, and, with his eyes on the flaming face of Jim
Travers, whispered,--

"All three died within twenty-four hours after being taken."

Tom Gordon's eyes filled with tears.

"O Doctor! is it as bad as that?"

"I am sorry to say it is. We shall hope for the best with this young man.
Give him the medicine every hour, and I will call again this evening. You
have all been exposed to whatever danger there is in the air, so you need
not be alarmed."

"It wouldn't make any difference about that," said Tom; "I'm going to
stay with him, and do all I can. I don't care whether or not I catch the
fever."

"That is more creditable to your heart than your head. Don't forget," said
the doctor, speaking to all, "to watch yourselves closely. At the first
appearance of headache, ringing in the ears, and fever, take those powders
that I have left on the stand. This is one of the cases where an ounce of
prevention is worth a good many pounds of cure. Nothing more can be done
for the boy than to follow the prescription I have given you. I will be
here again in the evening, unless he should become much worse, when you
can send for me."

Tom Gordon will never forget that day and night. He refused to leave the
bedside of his friend except for a few minutes. The farmer and his wife
were equally faithful, and did all they could for the sufferer, whose
condition seemed to show a slight improvement toward the latter part of
the afternoon. So much so indeed that all felt hope.

Jim slept at intervals, but continually muttered and flung himself about.
There were flashes of consciousness, when he would look fixedly at those
around his bed, and smile in his winning way. He thanked them for their
kindness, and hoped he would get well; but he had never felt so strange.
It seemed as if his head was continually lifting his body upward, and he
was so light he could fly.

After lying this way for some minutes, his hand, which rested in that of
Tom's, would suddenly tighten with incredible strength, and he would rise
in bed and begin a wild, incoherent rambling, which filled the hearts of
the others with anguish.

It was just growing dusk, when Jim, who had exchanged a few words of sense
with his weeping friend, said, lying motionless on his pillow, and without
apparent excitement,--

"Tom, I'm dying."

"O Jim! don't say that," sobbed the broken-hearted lad. "You must get
well. You are young and strong; you must throw off this sickness: keep up
a good heart."

The poor boy shook his head.

"It's no use. I wish I had been a better boy; but I've said my prayers
night and morning, and tried to do as mother and father used to tell me to
do. Tom, try to be better; I tell you, you won't be sorry when you come to
die."

"No one could have been better than you, Jim," said the elder, feeling
more calmness than he had yet shown. He realized he was bending in the
awful shadow of death, and that but a few more words could pass between
him find the one he loved so well.

"I haven't been half as good as I ought to--not half as good as you, Tom."

"O Jim! you should not say that."

"He is right," whispered Mrs. Pitcairn, standing at the foot of the bed,
beside her husband; "he will be with us but a few minutes longer. How do
you feel," she asked gently, "now that you must soon go, Jim?"

"I am sorry to leave you and Tom, but it's all right. I see mother and
Maggie and father," he replied, looking toward the ceiling; "they are
bending over me, they are waiting to take my hand; I am glad to be with
them--Tom, kiss me good-by."

With the tears blinding his eyes, and holding the hot hand within his own
warm pressure, Tom Gordon pressed his lips on those of Jim Travers, and,
as he held them there, the spirit of the poor orphan wanderer took its
flight.

The door gently opened a minute later and the physician stepped inside.
One glance told him the truth.

"I knew it was coming when I looked at him this morning," he remarked, in
a soft, sympathetic voice. "Nothing could save him. How do you all feel?"

It seemed cruel to ask the question of the three all standing in the
presence of death; but it was professional and it was wise, for, by
pressing it, he withdrew their thoughts from the overwhelming sorrow that
was crushing them.

Tom Gordon had flung himself on the bed with uncontrollable sorrow. One
arm lay over the breast and partly round the neck of the body, which
breathed no longer, and whose face was lit up by a beatific smile; for Jim
Travers was with mother and Maggie and father, and they should go out no
more forever.



Chapter XIX.



It is not well to dwell upon the second great affliction of Tom Gordon. He
was older now than when his mother died, and though bowed to the earth by
the loss of his cherished playmate, he was too sensible to brood over his
grief. Short as had been his stay at the home of Farmer Pitcairn, he had
made friends, and they were abundant with the best of counsel.

There is no remedy for mental trouble like hard work. There's nothing the
equal of it. When the dark shadow comes, apply yourself with might and
main to some duty. Do your utmost to concentrate your thoughts, energies,
and whole being upon it. Avoid sitting down in the gloom and bemoaning
your affliction. By and by it will soften; and, relying upon the goodness
of Him who doeth all things well, you will see the kindly providence which
overrules all the affairs of this life. With the gentle poet you will be
able to murmur:--

/P
    "Sweet the hour of tribulation,
      When the heart can freely sigh,
    And the tear of resignation
      Twinkles in the mournful eye."
P/

Jim Travers was laid away to rest in the beautiful country cemetery near
the home of Farmer Pitcairn, and between it and the town of Bellemore. In
due time a plain, tasteful shaft was erected to his memory, on which,
below his name, date of birth and death, were carved the expressive
words:--

"He was a tried and true friend."

It took a good deal of the earnings of Tom Gordon to erect this tribute to
the departed youth. Mr. Pitcairn and his wife insisted upon sharing a part
of the expense; and the youth could not refuse them, though he would not
permit it to be more than a trifle as compared with his own. The placing
of the shaft has led me to anticipate events somewhat.

Tom Gordon was approaching young manhood. He was a tall, sturdy boy, with
a fair education, and it was high time that he set to work at the serious
business of life. Providence had ordered that he should pass through more
than one stirring experience. He had knocked about the world a good deal
more than falls to the lot of most lads of his age, and had acquired
valuable knowledge. He had learned much of the ways of men, and had
undergone a schooling, rough of itself, but fitted to qualify him for the
rebuffs of fortune to which we must all become accustomed.

What should he do? This was the question which he often debated with
himself, as was befitting in a sensible youth, who feared the danger of a
mistake when standing at the "crossing of the ways."

Somehow he felt a strong dislike to going back to New York. He and Jim had
met with such rough treatment there that the memory was not pleasant. His
yearning was to stay in the neighborhood of Bellemore. The soothing flow
of the beautiful Hudson, the picturesque, restful scenery, and, above all,
the sweet, sad halo that lingered around the last abiding place of his
friend, held him to the spot, which would ever be a sacred one to him.

He could not fancy the life of a farmer, though nothing would have pleased
Mr. Pitcairn more than to have the strong, thoughtful boy prepare himself
to become his successor in the management of the thrifty and well-kept
place. While Tom was in this state of incertitude, Providence opened the
way, as it always does to the one who is waiting to accept the indication.

It was at the close of a mild day in early summer that he was sitting on
the front porch of his new home, talking with Mr. Pitcairn and his wife,
when a carriage stopped in front, and an elderly gentleman stepped down,
tied his horse, and opened the gate.

"Why, that's Mr. Warmore," said Farmer Pitcairn to his wife, as he rose to
greet his visitor, who walked briskly up the graveled path.

The appearance of the gentleman was prepossessing. He was tall and spare,
but with a benign expression of countenance. He was well dressed, wore
gold spectacles, and his scant hair and a tuft of whiskers on either side
of his cheeks were snowy white, while his features were regular. He must
have been an unusually handsome man in his younger days, and would still
attract admiration wherever seen.

He shook hands warmly with the farmer and his wife, and was introduced to
Tom, whom he treated with the same cordiality. The youth made haste to
place a chair at his disposal, for which Mr. Warmore thanked him, and
sitting down, crossed his legs, took off his hat, and wiped his perspiring
brow with his white silken handkerchief. The chat went on in the usual way
for a time, during which Tom discovered that the visitor showed
considerable interest in him. His eyes continually turned in his
direction, and he asked him a question now and then. The youth was too
modest to intrude in the conversation, but knew how to express himself
when asked to do so.

By and by the questions of Mr. Warmore became quite pointed. Once or twice
Tom was disposed to resent them; but reflecting that the gentleman was
much older than he, and could have no wrong purpose in thus probing into
his personal affairs, he replied promptly to all he asked.

Finally, when this had continued until it began growing dark, Mr. Warmore
said,--

"I wish to hire you to enter my store, how would you like it?"

The question was so unexpected that Tom was fairly taken off his feet. He
replied with a pleasing laugh,--

"How can I answer, when I never saw you before, and have no idea of what
your business is?"

"True, neither of us has seen the other until to-day; but I may say that I
have heard of you from our pastor, Dr. Williams, who conducted the
services of your young friend, that was buried a week ago."

"He cannot know much about me, though we have had several talks together."

"He talked, too, with Mr. Pitcairn here, as I did myself."

"Yes," said the farmer, "he asked me many questions about you, and so did
Mr. Warmore the other day when I was in his place."

"I keep the largest store in Bellemore. I have kept it for forty years, as
did my father before me. It is what may be called a combination
establishment. My father started it toward the close of the last century,
when a journey to New York meant a great deal more than it does to-day. So
he tried to provide the neighbors with everything they could need, such as
dry goods, groceries, hardware, farmers' implements, and, as I said, about
all that a large and growing family are likely to require. I have followed
in his footsteps, expanding the business, until now my clerks and
assistants number nearly a dozen. I am in need of a large, strong, wide
awake, active boy, who can write a good hand, and who is willing to begin
at the lowest round of the ladder and work his way up."

It was the personality of the man, rather than the business, which
attracted Tom Gordon. He liked Mr. Warmore so well that he secretly
resolve to go with him. But the youth was not lacking in diplomacy.

"How do you know I will suit you, Mr. Warmore?" he asked.

"I don't; no one can know how another will serve him until the trial is
made. You may not suit at all. Perhaps I won't keep you beyond a week.
That's a risk we must all take. I'm willing to take it. Are _you_ ready to
see how you like me and the business?"

"What is to be my pay?" asked Tom, still veiling his growing inclination
to accept the proposal of the merchant.

"Not much at first. Five dollars a week, which shall be made six at the
end of a month if you suit. An increase will be given at the end of every
half year; I don't say provided you earn it, for, if you don't, I won't
keep you. What do you say, young man?"

"I'll try it; when do you wish me?"

"To-day is Friday. Come Monday morning. Don't be later than eight o'clock.
Good-night, all."

Mr. Warmore had risen to his feet and raised his hat politely to all
three. The farmer, who had hardly spoken a word during the interview, also
arose and walked to the gate with his caller, where they talked for a few
minutes.

"Yes, I like his looks," remarked the merchant in a low voice, as he
untied his horse and flung the strap under the seat. "There is something
good in his face. He looks honest; he is well put together; he is not
afraid of work. Is he fully recovered from his injured leg?"

"I never saw one get well so quick. You wouldn't know that anything had
ever happened to him. Of course one would say that coming to my house in
the strange manner he did, I haven't had much chance to judge him. That
would be the case with a man, but a boy can't play the hypocrite for long.
My wife and I are very fond of him, and he will still be able to board
with us."

"There is no reason why he should not. It is hardly a mile from here to
the store, and it won't trouble him to walk it summer and winter. Now and
then, when we are busy, I shall have to keep him in the evenings, but from
what I hear, he has learned how to take care of himself. Well, Joseph, we
are liable to make mistakes, and it may be we have done so in this case,
but we'll chance it. Good-night again."

The merchant sprang lightly into his buggy, and drove down the road at a
rapid pace, while the farmer, gazing for a moment or two in the direction
of the cloud of dust, rejoined his wife and Tom on the porch.



Chapter XX.



And now let's take a big jump forward. Hold your breath while we gather
our muscles for the effort, for when we land, it is at a point four years
from the day when Tom Gordon entered the employ of Josiah Warmore, the
leading merchant in the town of Bellemore, on the Hudson.

There have been many changes in those years, but in some respects slight
differences could be noted. It would be hard to tell from looking at Mr.
Warmore that he was one day older than when he stopped at the home of
Farmer Pitcairn and hired Tom Gordon. His hair and whiskers were so white
at that time that they could not grow any whiter. The face wears the same
kindly expression, the shoulders are no more stooped than they were then,
and his walk is as brisk and sprightly as ever. Few of his clerks are more
alert of movement than he.

Much the same may be said of Farmer Pitcairn and his wife. Possibly there
is an additional wrinkle or two on their homely faces, but their hearts
are as genial and as kindly as ever. They love Tom Gordon as if he were
their own son, and he fully returns the affection they feel for him.

And how has it been with Tom during those four years?

Well, he has had his shadow and sunshine, like the rest of us, but there
has been far more of the latter than the former. How could it be
otherwise, when I tell you that he has stood as firm as a rock upon the
principles that were implanted in his heart and soul by his noble mother?
He could never forget her teachings, which were added to by other wise and
good persons with whom he was thrown in contact later.

Now, Tom Gordon became what I call a healthy, sensible Christian youth. He
was not the good boy we used to read about in the Sunday-school books, who
mopes around, forever preaching a sermon whenever he opens his lips, and
finding a "lesson" in everything, even the leap of a grasshopper. When
those boys become so good that they can be no better, they generally lie
down, call all their playmates around them, deliver a farewell sermon, and
then depart. The mistake of that sort of life is that it makes religion
unattractive. It gives the idea that "the good die young," and that a
jolly, genial, fun-loving boy, bubbling over sometimes with mischief,
cannot be a Christian, when he is the very one that most pleases his
heavenly Father.

Tom had his fun, his enjoyment, and now and then his crosses. Such things
are inevitable and must be looked for. A thorn appeared in his side from
the first. A young clerk that had entered the store a few weeks ahead of
him was a sly, mean, gnarly fellow, who showed a dislike to the new-comer
and annoyed him in every way possible. He was larger and apparently
stronger than Tom, and seemed determined to provoke a quarrel with him.

Tom would have been glad to challenge him to a bout at fisticuffs, for he
was confident he could vanquish him in short order. He often yearned to do
so. More than once the hot defiance was tugging at his lips; but the
memory of poor Jim Travers's parting words, "Tom, try to be better: I tell
you, you won't be sorry when you come to die," restrained the angry
utterance and the hasty blow.

Max Zeigler was one of those young men that are inherently mean. He was
born that way, and his ugly disposition increased with his years. You
occasionally meet such persons, whose nature it seems impossible to affect
by any method of treatment. What was specially aggravating in Tom Gordon's
place was that Zeigler seemed to feel no dislike of any one in the store
besides himself. He slurred him the first day he met him, and kept it up
unremittingly.

Tom's first course was to accept these slurs in silence. His face often
flushed, when he saw the smiles on the countenances of the other clerks,
excited by some cutting witticism of Zeigler at the expense of himself.
His tormentor accepted the silence as proof of the timidity or rather
cowardice of the new employee, and rattled off his insults faster than
ever. While kindness as a rule will disarm a foe, there are some ingrates
so constituted that it moves them the other way. When Tom replied gently
to Zeigler, and asked him privately why he annoyed him without cause, the
fellow sneered the more at him. He took pains to indulge in profanity and
obscenity before Tom, and received the full reward he sought when he saw
how much his course grieved him.

Finally Tom struck the remedy. It was simple. He showed perfect
indifference toward his persecutor. When Zeigler made a cutting remark, he
acted as if he did not hear him. He continued his conversation with
another; and though his enemy repeated his words, they did not seem to
enter the ears of Tom. Even when Zeigler put a question direct to him, it
was ignored.

It then became the turn of Zeigler to flush at the general smile that went
round. At last he had been rebuffed.

One afternoon, when there was little custom in the store, Tom entered one
of the rear rooms, where were Zeigler and two other clerks. The fellow's
heart rankled at the snubbing he had received, and he was plotting some
way of "getting even" with the sanctimonious fellow, who would never
swear or indulge in a coarse word.

"This is just the place for a wrestling match," remarked Zeigler. "Gordon,
I will go you."

There was no ignoring this challenge. Tom was a wonderfully fine wrestler,
but none present knew it. He affected to be timid.

"You are bigger than I, and it would hardly be fair," replied Tom,
surveying the bulky form of his challenger.

"O pshaw! you are as heavy as I; besides, I will let you down easy."

"Try him, Gordon," whispered one of the clerks.

"If you will promise not to throw me too hard," said Tom doubtfully, "I
will take one turn with you."

"Of course I won't hurt you," grinned Zeigler, eager for the chance to
humiliate the fellow whom he despised.

All saw his purpose, and none more plainly than Tom himself.

The two doffed their coats and vests, and took their station in the middle
of the room, with their arms interlocked. Tom pretended an awkwardness
which deceived the others, and convinced Zeigler, to use a common
expression, he had a "cinch" in this little affair.

They struggled for a minute, and then, with the suddenness seemingly of a
flash of lightning, Zeigler's heels shot toward the ceiling, and he came
down on his back with a crash that shook the windows.

"I thought you knew something about wrestling," remarked Tom, standing
erect, and looking down on him with a smile, "but you don't know anything
at all."

The two spectators were convulsed with laughter. Zeigler's face was a
fiery crimson, and he scrambled to his feet in a fury.

"That was a slip; you can't do it again!" he exclaimed, springing at Tom
and hastily locking arms with him.

"All right; we'll see. Now do your best, for I mean to throw you just as I
did a minute ago. Are you ready?"

"Of course I am; go ahead."

Zeigler was not lacking in a certain skill. The lesson he had just
received was not lost on him. He was cautious, tricky, and alert--more so
than Tom suspected, and he put forth the utmost cunning of which he was
capable.

They twisted, swayed back and forth, and once Tom came within a hair of
falling, owing to a slight slip of one foot. But he was on his mettle,
and, putting forth his whole might and ability, he flung his antagonist on
his back with a violence that almost drove the breath from his body.

"Fudge!" remarked Tom, turning away in disgust; "I'll give you a few
lessons if you wish to learn how to wrestle. Any way, you had better take
lessons of some person before you bother _me_ again."

The other two clerks had dropped upon the nearest stools, and were holding
their sides with mirth.

"Zeigler," said one, when he recovered speech, "that's too big a contract
for you; you can't deliver the goods."

"You'll have to pay for those window-panes you shook out," added the
other.

"I've got a set of boxing-gloves here," growled Zeigler, who tried to
assume an indifference, as he brushed off his clothes and looked up with
flaming face. "I'd like to try you with them."

"I'm agreeable," replied Tom, who had seen Zeigler bang the other clerks
around with the gloves as he pleased. "I learned something of the business
when I was a newsboy. I hope you are better at it than you are at
wrestling."

While Tom was speaking he was drawing on a pair of gloves and fixing the
strings at the wrist. Zeigler was a little uneasy at the coolness of his
opponent, and his readiness in accepting his challenge. Then, too, when he
took his position, with his left foot advanced, his right glove in front
of his chest, his left arm extended, the pose was so like a professional,
that Zeigler's misgivings increased. Still he felt great confidence in
his own skill, and there was no criticism to be made upon his position
when he faced the youth, for whose vanquishment he would have given half
his year's salary.

"Now," said Tom, with his exasperating coolness, "I propose that _each do
his best_. I don't suppose you want any baby play. I don't. I invite you
to hit me as often and as hard as you can. I'm going to do the same with
you. _Time_!"

They began dancing about a common center, sawing their arms back and
forth, each looking sharply in the other's eye and on the alert for an
opening.

Tom meant to make the other lead; for, before assuming the aggressive, he
wished to know more about Zeigler. It might be he possessed greater skill
than Tom believed. He meant to learn something of his style.

They had circled round several times, when Zeigler thought he saw his
chance, and feinting quickly, let fly with his left. Instead of parrying
the blow, Tom dodged it by throwing his head back. The opportunity was a
capital one to counter on Zeigler, but Tom made no effort to do so. It
looked as if he lacked the quickness and skill, and failed to see his
chance.

Zeigler now began edging nearer. He had come within an inch of reaching
the face of Tom, when he failed to counter. A little closer, and he was
sure he could "knock him out." At any rate, if he failed to do so, he had
nothing to fear from a foe who did not know enough to use an elemental
advantage.

A quick step forward at the instant of feinting with his right, and
Zeigler again let fly with his left straight from the shoulder. It was a
vicious blow, and, had it landed, would have done damage; but a flirt of
the head allowed it to glide harmlessly over the shoulder. At the instant
of doing so, Tom cross-countered with a quickness and force that could not
have been excelled. That is to say, as Zeigler's left glove was darting
past Tom's left ear, and the momentum of the young man's body was throwing
him forward, Tom's right hand shot across the extended arm of the other,
and landed with fearful force on the nose and mouth of his opponent.

It was a fierce drive; for its effect was intensified by the fact that
Tom's glove met the head of the other as it was coming toward him. It
would have been bad enough had it landed on a stationary object, but the
object was approaching from the opposite direction.

Tom and the two clerks were startled by the effect of the blow, for
Zeigler went down like a log, rolling over on his back, his hands
flapping full length above his head, while he lay perfectly unconscious.

But when water was dashed in his face he revived. It was some time before
he freed his mouth and nose of the crimson result of colliding with the
glove; but, aided by the clerks, he donned his coat and vest, and assumed
something like a presentable condition.

While this was going on, Tom Gordon sat in a chair a few feet away,
looking on as though he felt little interest in the matter. He did not
help shape the other up, for two reasons. His aid was not necessary, and,
again, he knew it would not be acceptable to his discomfited antagonist.

"A rather neat blow, Zeigler," remarked Tom; "when you wish to even up
matters, I will be ready to accommodate you."

It sounded strange to the other clerks to hear the gentle Tom Gordon speak
thus to the young man who had played the bully so long over him. They
concluded that the crushed worm had at last turned. The vanquished one
made no reply except to give the other a look of hatred, and leave the
room.

Now, there is not one person in a thousand who would not have been
conquered morally as well as physically by an experience like that of Max
Zeigler. Such an utter overthrow would have made the bully the close
friend and champion of the other; but it was altogether different with
Zeigler. Before his swelled lip and bulging nose had resumed their normal
appearance, he resumed his petty persecutions as before. Those who knew of
the bout in the back room (and, indeed, every clerk quickly learned the
particulars) urged Tom to lay out his enemy so effectually that he would
stay laid out.

Young Gordon, however, chose the better course. He affected the same
indifference as before, and frequently did not seem to hear the words of
his enemy. The hardest duty Tom had to do was to keep back the scathing
retorts of which he thought so often, and which would have silenced
Zeigler. Nothing, indeed, is more difficult for a high-spirited person
than to bridle his tongue under the lashings of another. _How_ few of us
are equal to the task!



Chapter XXI.



Only two or three incidents worthy of note fell to the lot of Tom Gordon
during his second year in the employ of Josiah Warmore.

At the beginning of the year he was promoted, and received a considerable
increase of salary. The situation given to him belonged by right of
seniority of service to Max Zeigler, and was looked upon as a certainty by
him. He was so indignant at the snub, that he made no effort to conceal
his feelings. While the hurt rankled, he went to Mr. Warmore and demanded
an explanation. He got it, and resigned forthwith. No one regretted to see
him go, and least of all Tom Gordon, who gave a sigh of thankfulness at
the removal of the thorn from his side.

It was strange how Mr. Warmore found out everything about his employees.
Often they felt astonishment, and could not understand by what means he
picked up knowledge they were often certain was only known to themselves.
Thus he learned at an early date the petty persecutions suffered by Tom at
the hands of Zeigler; and there can be little doubt that that information
was one cause of the fellow receiving such a marked set-back. Then he
knew as much of that wrestling and boxing bout as if he had been a
witness. There is reason to suspect he was secretly pleased at the issue,
though he would never admit it. It is not wise at all times for the
teacher or employer to let those under his charge know the extent of his
knowledge of their doings. In other words, it is not always best to see
what you do see.

Mr. Warmore was a reserved man. He was kind, but just, toward his clerks.
He established a free reading-room in Bellemore, saw that every employee
had his regular vacation each summer or whenever he preferred it,
encouraged them to be frugal and moral, gave them good advice, forbade
coarseness of language or profanity, and hired a pew in each of the two
leading churches, which were always at the disposal of his young men
without any expense to them.

Occasionally he gave entertainments at his own handsome residence for
their benefit. Now and then he would invite some of them to dinner. His
wife was in delicate health, but a most excellent woman, who did much to
make such evenings highly enjoyable. Their only son had died in his
infancy, and their daughter Jennie was attending a boarding-school. Little
was seen of her, though when at home she often drove to the store with her
mother, to take her father out with them. She was remarkably attractive in
looks, but, like her father, reserved in manner. She recognized the
clerks, when she chanced to meet them, with the air and manner of a lady;
but all felt there was a gulf between her and them which was impassable.
They concluded (and did not criticise her therefor) that she held herself
socially above each and all of them.

The second incident that took place came to Tom Gordon in the summer-time
while away on his fortnight's vacation. He had grown to be tall, and more
attractive than when younger. He was fond of good clothes; and when he
took the steamer at the landing, and went down the Hudson to New York, it
would have been hard to find a better looking or more correctly costumed
young man than Tom. He did not show it in his manner, but how could he
help knowing it?

Strange that almost the first persons he noticed on the boat were Sam
Harper and his sister Nellie, returning from an excursion up the river.
They, too, had done considerable growing, and made a handsome couple. Tom
looked so well that Nellie was very pleased to meet him. She would have
been glad to receive attention from him, and showed by her manner that she
expected it. But Tom could not forget that snub a couple of years before,
when he was selling papers on a Broadway car. He liked Sam and his father
and mother, but couldn't forgive Nellie for hurting his feelings. So,
when the brother turned her over to him, Tom with exquisite courtesy
raised his hat, bade her good-day, and strolled to another part of the
boat. She understood the meaning of the repulse, as he meant she should,
and she felt it.

And who should he run against on the wharf in the city but his old friend
Patsey McConough, who had done him such a good turn when he first arrived
in the metropolis. The genial Irishman had driven down with a carriage to
meet his employer, who was on the steamer, so he had but little
opportunity to talk with Tom, whom he did not recognize until the youth
made himself known. But they shook hands warmly, and each was pleased to
find the other doing so well. They parted with the best wishes, hoping
soon to see each other again.

Tom, like a sensible youth, made the most of his vacation. He spent
several days among his friends at Briggsville, who heartily welcomed him
among them, even though saddened by the fact that the orphan who went away
with him could never return to them again. Then he gave a few days to the
seashore, where none enjoyed the bathing, the boating, and frolicking more
than he. All too soon the two weeks drew to an end, and he again boarded
the steamer which stopped at the landing opposite Bellemore, on its way to
more important towns and cities up the Hudson.

Strolling over the boat to see whether there were any acquaintances among
his fellow-travelers, he found none, and, having nothing better to do, sat
down on a camp-stool on the forward deck to view the picturesque scenery,
which, however, had become so familiar that he fell to studying human
nature as it appeared immediately around him.

That which interested him the most was a dudish young man, dressed in the
extreme of fashion, carrying a heavy cane, and wearing eyeglasses. He had
high cheek bones, fishy gray eyes, fine teeth, and a simpering smile. Tom
judged he was a couple of years older than himself, and became interested
in him because of his amusing efforts to charm the ladies around him. The
vulgar expression would be that he was trying to "mash" them. The word is
not a good one, but it will help my reader to understand the meaning.

Evidently he believed himself irresistible, and his smirking, posing, and
ogling were ludicrous to the last degree. Among the numerous young ladies
on board were a dozen Vassar girls, as bright, merry, and full of mischief
as they could possibly be. They met the ogling of the dude with sly
glances and smiles which made him more killing than ever. Encouraged by
this, and not doubting that he had made a conquest, he ventured to
approach and address them. The reception he met was enough to congeal
water. It fairly took away his breath. Then he blushed clear out to the
end of his ears, and withdrew to some other part of the boat, where he
could hope to be better appreciated.

Some of the girls managed to stroll thither a few minutes later, as if
unconscious of where he had gone. Tom saw some fun was coming, and he
drifted thither too.

The dude had succeeded in making an impression on a simpering girl, and
was seated on one of the camp-stools beside her, talking in his drawling
way, and pointing out the beautiful scenery as they swept past. He
frequently raised his heavy cane and indicated the different objects, the
better to enlighten his companion.

"Aw, that is Haverstraw," he volunteered, bringing the stick to a level.
"It is--aw--quite a famous place; reminds me of Holland across the water,
you know."

"What is there about Haverstraw to suggest Holland?" inquired his lady
friend.

"They make bricks there--aw--a good many bricks--aw--may I inquire,
doncherknow, did you ever see a brick?"

"Oh, yes," she replied, with an impertinent glance from her mischievous
eyes; "I think I am looking at one now."

"You mean to say that I am a brick--aw--good, dooced good; I must tell
that at the club--dooced clevah; couldn't do much bettah meself,
doncherknow? Now, if you will kindly rise from your seat--aw--I will point
out a vewy interesting mountain peak."

"Thank you, I can see well enough without rising."

Nevertheless, the dude came to a stooping posture, and, with one gloved
hand on the railing to steady him self, wabbled the bulky cane again in
the direction of the shore.

"Aw--I'm a little off soundings, doncherknow, and am not suah whether that
is Dunderberg Mountain or Saint Anthony's Olfactory Organ--aw--that's
clevah, don't you think,--Saint Anthony's Olfactory Organ,
doncherknow"--At the moment of partly rising to his feet, a couple of
Vassar girls walked past. When directly opposite the camp-stool of the
dude, one of them touched it with the toe of her shoe and shoved it to one
side. The lady seated near and listening to the young man's chatter saw
it, but pretended she did not, and, therefore, made no effort to save her
new friend from his impending catastrophe. It was the same with a dozen
other persons.

There is no form of practical joking more to be condemned than that of
taking a chair from under a person when he is about to sit down. Lasting
injury has resulted in more than one instance, and no person should ever
do it himself or permit it to be done by another. Possibly, however, the
case now in hand was an exception; for it was evident that the principal
performer was so soft that no harm could come to him from the fall. No
spectator felt any misgiving on that score.

Finding his companion did not rise as he had requested, the young man
began slowly to sit down. He continued doing so, until he struck the deck
with a bump which caused his hat to fly off, the cane to drop from his
hand, and his eyeglasses to fall from his nose. He gradually picked
himself up, and, amid the laughter of every one near, made his way to the
_salon_ below, and busied himself reading a copy of an English paper.

This incident would not be worth the telling but for that which followed.
The dudish young man who caused so much entertainment on board the steamer
that afternoon was destined to cross the path of Tom Gordon in a way of
which neither dreamed.

Tom gave no more thought to him until, when waiting to walk ashore at the
landing, he saw, to his surprise, the young man was about to do the same.
It looked as if he intended to make a call at Bellemore. Greater
astonishment came when Tom saw the handsome carriage of Mr. Warmore at the
landing. The driver was perched on the high seat in front, while Mrs.
Warmore and her daughter Jennie occupied the rear seat, facing the vacant
one.

"Can it be possible? Well, that beats me!"

[Illustration: Tom held on like grim death.]

The carriage was waiting for this young man, who simpered forward with
uplifted hat and greeted them effusively. Mrs. Warmore noticed Tom, and
bowed to him, inviting him to enter the carriage and ride with them,--an
invitation which, as he expressed to himself, he would not have accepted
for seventeen thousand million dollars. The dude stepped into the
carriage, dropped into the seat facing the ladies, and devoted himself to
gnawing the head of his cane and making bright remarks to them.

"Well, who in the name of the seven wonders can he be?" mused Tom, walking
briskly homeward. "He must be some relative of the Warmores; but they
ought to be ashamed of such a specimen as that. He was the laughing-stock
of the boat. I was forming quite an exalted opinion of Miss Jennie; but if
she fancies that sort of thing, my respect for her has gone down to zero."

When Tom stepped upon the porch of Farmer Pitcairn's home, and shook hands
with him, and received a motherly kiss from his good wife, he went inside,
and, sitting down to their evening meal, asked Mr. Pitcairn whether he had
noticed the young man riding in the Warmore carriage with the mother and
daughter.

"Yes; I've seen him before. He is a son of an old friend of the family.
I've an idee that he and Miss Warmore are intended for each other."

"Do you know his name?"

"Yes--let me see. Ah, it is Catherwood--G. Field Catherwood. He parts his
name, like his hair, in the middle. He is quite a dude in his dress, but
when you come to know him pretty well he isn't such a bad sort of fellow."

"How is it _you_ know so much about him?" asked Tom in surprise.

"He has stopped here a good many times when out riding with the ladies.
He's fond of mother's buttermilk."

"I thought his kind preferred sweet milk," Tom could not help remarking,
with a laugh; "but I must not judge him too harshly. We all have our
peculiarities, and he is not likely to fancy me any more than I do him."

Tom returned to his work refreshed and renewed in strength and spirits.
The year passed pleasantly. That which followed saw him promoted another
step, so that when the fourth year opened it saw him in a situation where
the salary of but a single employee exceeded his; that was the bookkeeper.

He had every reason to expect that place when the vacancy should occur.
Mr. Warmore had given so many evidences of his regard that it was conceded
by all that he was his favorite clerk. He had never violated his
principles of honesty, truthfulness, and consideration for every one with
whom he came in contact. A young man who lives up to that rule of conduct
is as sure to succeed, if his life is spared, as the sun is to rise.

The bookkeeper was an elderly gentleman, so well-to-do that, at the
beginning of the fifth year, he resigned and gave up all active work. His
son was engaged in successful business in New York, and urged his father
to join him, where he would be a partner. So he left. His successor in the
establishment of Mr. Warmore, instead of being Tom Gordon, was G. Field
Catherwood.



Chapter XXII.



It was a surprise to every employee of Mr. Warmore. To Tom Gordon it was
also a keen disappointment. He had never doubted that the plum would fall
to him. He did not dream that the dudish young man would ever demean
himself by manual labor; but Mr. Warmore departed from his usual
reticence, to the extent of taking Tom aside and explaining matters.

"Mr. Catherwood is the son of an old college friend of mine. His father
was wealthy, and, at his death some years ago, left everything to him. Mr.
Catherwood has traveled a good deal, but is disposed now to settle down in
life and become a business man. He has made an offer to put a large sum of
money in our business, and I have accepted it--that is, conditionally,"
added the merchant with a slight hesitation.

Tom bowed.

"I presume he has some thought of marriage, and has awakened to the fact
that the life of an idler is a worthless one. So he contemplates becoming
a merchant. With his help we shall be able to expand our business and thus
benefit both. I said I accepted his offer conditionally."

Noticing the hesitation of his employer, Tom interposed:--

"Mr. Warmore, there is no call for you to make this explanation. No man
could have been kinder to me than you have been. I will not deny that I
was disappointed, when I found myself checked on the next to the highest
round of the ladder, but not a word of complaint can ever be heard from
me. I should be an ingrate to utter it. I shall give you the best service
of which I am capable, as I have done in the past. My gratitude you shall
have always."

"Those manly word have decided me to say two things: From the beginning of
the year your salary shall be the same as that of Mr. Martin who has left.
The condition upon which I have agreed to accept Mr. Catherwood as a
partner is that he shall devote one year's hard work to the business. He
thinks he can acquire the necessary knowledge best by becoming a
bookkeeper, since he could hardly be expected to begin where you and the
rest did."

Repeating his thanks to his employer for the goodness he had always shown
toward him, Tom Gordon bowed himself out.

Sure enough, the next day Mr. Catherwood took his place at the
bookkeeper's desk. Mr. Martin agreed to stay a week in order to explain
everything necessary to him; and none could have applied himself more
assidiously than the young man, whose whole thoughts seemed to have been
centered on that of dress and the other sex.

Tom Gordon soon discovered the cause of Mr. Pitcairn's remark to the
effect that Catherwood was not such a bad fellow when you came to know
him. He wrote an excellent hand, understood the theory of bookkeeping, and
mastered that branch of the business so quickly that Mr. Martin was
dismissed with thanks at the end of three days.

True, he wore eyeglasses, parted his hair in the middle, and was an
exquisite in his dress. When he chose he could be courteous to those
around him. Most of the clerks were pleasantly disappointed by his manner.

Tom Gordon, as in duty bound, yielded full respect to the one who was not
only his superior in position, but who was likely, in the course of time,
to become his sole employer. But the young man was sensitive, and soon
became convinced that Mr. Catherwood did not feel especially friendly
toward him. It was not in anything he said or did, but rather in his
manner. It made Tom uncomfortable; but he resolved to make the best of it,
and, if he could not force Mr. Catherwood to like him, he could at least
compel his respect.

"He must have seen me laughing at him on the steamboat, when he missed his
chair; possibly he suspects I had something to do with his mishap. It is
natural that he should feel resentful toward me, but I hope it will wear
off."

In the dusk of early evening, some months later, Tom was sauntering
homeward, musing over the past, with an uncomfortable feeling that despite
the long service he had given Mr. Warmore, and the many times he had
expressed his satisfaction with him, the association was not likely to
continue much longer.

There could be no mistaking the hearty dislike which Catherwood felt for
the young man. Tom would have cared little for that had not the
discouraging conviction forced itself upon him that Mr. Warmore was
beginning to share his future partner's distrust. It seemed to be an
unconscious absorption on his part of the views of another.

This was hard to bear; but it rasped the young man's sense of manhood, for
it was an injustice which he did not expect.

"If Mr. Warmore is weak enough to let that fellow turn him against me, he
is a different man from what I suspected. His store is not the only one in
the world, and at the first unfair act on his part, I shall leave--hello!"

Coming down the road, on a swift gallop, with the reins flying, was a
spirited horse, dragging a fashionable dog-cart, which, as it swayed from
side to side, showed that it contained a single person,--a lady, who had
lost control of the animal.

"That looks bad," muttered Tom, his heart leaping with natural excitement.
"She is likely to be killed."

It looked as if the young man was to be given one of the stereotyped
opportunities to prove his heroism,--that of rescuing a beautiful young
lady whose horse was running away. He did not think of that, however, for
it would have been the same had a bitter enemy been in peril.

The steed was coming like the whirlwind. The clamp of his hoofs, his
snorting nostrils, his flying mane, and dangling reins, the frail vehicle
bounding from side to side and often on the point of overturning, the
glimpses of the lady bravely holding on and uttering no scream,--all these
made up the most startling picture on which Tom Gordon had looked for many
a day.

Stationing himself in the middle of the road, he swung his hat and arms,
and shouted to the mad animal in the hope of making him slacken his speed
sufficiently to allow the occupant to leap out. The horse saw him, shied a
little, moderated his pace a trifle, and then plunged forward on a run.

Clearly he was not to be checked by that means. Tom Gordon braced himself
for the shock of the supreme effort he had formed.

In a twinkling his strong grip had closed about the strap of the bit, and
he threw his whole weight against the brute, who reared, plunged,
struggled, struck with his fore feet, and strove to shake the incubus
loose, but in vain. Tom held on like grim death, though in imminent danger
of being struck down and trampled upon. No animal is quicker to recognize
the hand of a master than a horse, and in less time than would be supposed
possible the mad runaway was under control.

Then a gentle patting, a few soothing words, and he became more quiet,
though still trembling in every nerve.

"I hope, Miss Warmore, you have not been injured."

"Not in the least, thanks to your bravery," replied the young lady,
displaying wonderful coolness. "I have had a pretty rapid ride and a bad
shock, but that is all."

Tom had caught up the reins and held them in hand, while he stood at the
side of the vehicle near the daughter of his employer.

"Perhaps, Miss Warmore, it will be safer for me to drive home with you.
The horse is nervous and liable to take fright again."

"I can never thank you sufficiently for what you have already done," she
said with emotion, moving to one side to make room for him.

"It was not difficult," he remarked lightly, stepping in beside her, and
speaking gently to the animal, as he carefully turned him around to drive
back. "I had time to prepare myself, and he was easily controlled. May I
ask how it happened?"

He was sure he never saw one so beautiful as she. The excitement had
brought a glow to her lustrous eyes, and there was deepening of the pink
tinge on the cheeks which made her complexion perfection itself. She was
still agitated, though striving hard to bring her feelings under control.

"We were driving at a brisk pace," she replied, "when a piece of paper
blew across the road in front of Jack, and he was off like a shot."

Tom noticed her use of the word "we," and knew whom she meant.

"Could not Mr. Catherwood control him?"

He glanced sideways at her when he asked the question, and noticed the
scornful expression that came upon her face.

"He might have done so had he a spark of _your_ courage; but the instant
Jack made his leap, Mr. Catherwood flung the lines over his back, and with
a call to me to jump, he sprang out of the cart and left me alone. If he
had given me the lines, I could have managed Jack myself; but he wouldn't
allow me even that poor privilege."

"He must have lost his head."

"Small loss to lose _such_ a head," exclaimed Miss Jennie, who evidently
held a small opinion of her escort; "it's the last time I shall ever go
riding with _him_."

A queer thrill passed through Tom Gordon. He was a fervent admirer of the
young lady at his side; but he had worshiped her, as may be said, as we
worship a fair and brilliant star. It is something so far beyond our reach
that we keep our admiration to ourself, and strive to drive the foolish
feeling from our heart.

"I have no wish to injure Catherwood," was his thought; "but if he is such
a coward as to desert a lady in peril, it is well she should know it
before it is too late."

When Mr. Warmore referred to the young man as not only contemplating a
partnership in his business, but as intending marriage, Tom Gordon held
not the slightest doubt of his full meaning. He was paying court to the
merchant's only daughter; and, if they were not already engaged, they
expected soon to become so.

The situation of our young friend, therefore, became a most peculiar one.
He had been given an important preliminary advantage, if he chose to
aspire to the love of the sweet one at his side; but he thought hard, and
did not lose his self-poise or sense of honor.

"It is natural that she should despise his poltroonery and feel grateful
to me," was his thought; "but, after all, it isn't likely she holds any
emotion other than simple gratitude. It would be base in me to presume
upon it. I will not do so."

The drive was comparatively a short one to the handsome residence of the
Warmores. As Tom guided the mettlesome pony through the open gate and up
the winding roadway to the front of the porch, Mrs. Warmore came out pale
with fright. She had just learned of the accident from G. Field
Catherwood, who had limped up the steps with a rambling tale of how he had
been flung headlong from the vehicle at the moment he was about to seize
Jennie and lift her free.

"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed the mother, when she saw her daughter unharmed;
"I was sure you were killed."

Catherwood hobbled forward from behind the lady, leaning on his cane.

"I say 'amen' to those sentiments," he added, too much flustered just then
to use his affected style of speech. "O Jennie, my heart was broken when I
was hurled out before I could save you. Allow me."

"You had better look after your own safety," she said, refusing his help,
as she stepped lightly from the cart. "Jack might start again. Mother, Mr.
Gordon here saved my life."

At this moment the groom appeared, and the blushing Tom turned the horse
over to him, and, pretending he had not heard the words of Jennie, lifted
his hat.

"It has come out all right; I bid you good-evening."

Catherwood quickly rallied from the snub of the lady. He slipped his
fingers in his vest-pocket and drew out a bill, which he handed to Tom.

"What's that for?" asked the wondering youth, taking the crumpled paper.

"Aw--that's all right, my deah fellow--you earned it--dooced clevah in
you"--

Tom Gordon compressed the paper into a small wad, and placing it between
his thumb and forefinger, as though it were a marble, shot it against the
eyeglasses of the amazed dude.

"That's my opinion of _you_," he said, turning about and walking off,
before the agitated Mrs. Warmore could thank him.

"I suppose I've done it," he mused, when in the highway and walking toward
Farmer Pitcairn's. "Catherwood never did like me and now he hates me. If
Miss Jennie keeps up her course toward him, he will hate me more than
ever. He will not rest till he gets me out of the store. Well, let him go
ahead. I am not an old man yet, and the world is broad and big."

He was about to sit down to the evening meal, when a servant of Mr.
Warmore arrived with a note, requesting the pleasure of Mr. Gordon's
company to dinner that evening. It was not a simple formal invitation,
but was so urgent that the young man could not refuse. He returned word
through the servant that he accepted with pleasure the invitation and
would be soon there.

Can the youth be censured, if, with a fluttering heart, he took extra
pains with his personal appearance before leaving the good farmer's home
that evening? When at last he stepped forth, in full dress, swinging his
light cane, you would have had to hunt a long way to find a handsomer
fellow than he.

And yet, with all his delightful anticipation, was mingled a feeling of
dread. He disliked meeting Catherwood, for between them a great gulf
yawned and something unpleasant was certain to occur. Jennie had witnessed
his insulting offer of a reward to him for what he had done, and must have
appreciated the style in which it was repulsed. She would show her
feelings most decisively before the evening was over.

Besides that, he dreaded hearing the family renew their expressions of
thankfulness. Tom had unquestionably performed a brave act, but no more so
than hundreds of others that were continually being done every day--some
of them entitled to far more credit than was his.

But the fact that he was about to spend an evening in the company of Miss
Jennie herself, outweighed all these slight objections. Conscious, too,
of her feeling toward him, he could not help viewing the hours just before
him with a delightful flutter of anticipation.

The first pleasant disappointment which came to Tom, after reaching the
fine residence and receiving the cordial welcome of the family, was the
discovery that G. Field Catherwood was not present, and would not form one
of the little party. That lifted a load of apprehension from his
shoulders.

Inasmuch as it had to come, Tom took the thanks of the parents like a
hero. He listened with a respectful smile, blushed under the compliments,
and blushed still more when Jennie with a straightforward, earnest look
said,--

"Mr. Gordon may say it was not much, but it saved my life, and I shall
_never_, NEVER forget it. If Mr. Catherwood had shown a hundredth part of
his courage"--

"There, there, daughter," protested her father, as they seated themselves
at the table, "a truce to all that; let us leave him out of the
conversation."

"And, if you please, drop the whole thing," added Tom, who began to feel
uncomfortable under it all.

"Since it will be more agreeable to you, we will do so," was the hearty
remark of the head of the family, as all began "discussing," as the
expression goes, the feast before them. "I will say, however, that Jennie
did meet with one experience, in which her rescuer showed possibly more
pluck than Mr. Gordon to-day."

The guest looked inquiringly at his host.

"She seems to be destined to be concerned in unpleasant adventures."

"Yes; I hope this is the last of them. What I refer to happened some five
or six years ago,--possibly more than that. At any rate, she was a small
girl, crossing the ferry at New York with her mother, when in the crowd
and crush, by some means which I never could understand, she fell
overboard. The river was full of floating ice, and she would have been
drowned but for the heroism of a boy, who sprang in after her, and, at the
risk of his own life, kept her afloat until both could be drawn on board."

Tom Gordon felt his face turning scarlet. He was so disturbed for the
moment that he could not frame any words. He could only look at his
employer and listen. In that moment there flashed upon him the explanation
of a little mystery which had troubled him for months.

The first time he looked into the face of Jennie Warmore, the suspicion
came to him that somewhere and at some time, under far different
circumstances, he had met her. When sitting at her side in the dog-cart
that afternoon, this suspicion became a certainty. He strove to account
for it on the theory that it was one of those accidental resemblances
which all of us have met in our experience; but he could not make himself
believe it to be the fact.

Strange that he never thought of associating her with that memorable
incident in his own life! He had sacredly preserved the chain and
likeness; and it was the similarity between the latter and the budding
young lady that caused the perplexity in his mind. He wondered that he had
not hit upon the explanation before it was flung in his face, as may be
said.

By the time Mrs. Warmore had added her account to that of her husband, Tom
had regained mastery of himself.

"And who was the lad that did all this?" he asked in the most innocent
manner conceivable.

"That is the one feature about the affair that has always troubled me,"
said the merchant. "I have tried to find out, but have never been able to
gain the first clew to his identity. Mrs. Warmore was so frantic in mind
that she did not think of the noble rescuer until he was gone. Then she
made inquiries, but no one seemed to know anything about him."

"It distressed me," added the lady; "for I felt he must think we were
ungrateful. We advertised in the papers, but it was useless. I do not
suppose we shall ever know who he was."

"He may have been some poor boy in need of help," added Mr. Warmore; "but
so brave a lad as that is sure to get along."

"I presume _you_ remember the incident?" remarked Tom, turning toward the
daughter.

"How can I ever forget it?" she asked in reply, with a shiver. "I can feel
that icy water even now, as it closed round me that wintry night. It was
too dark to see my rescuer's face plainly, but I would know him if I met
him fifty years from now. He was remarkably handsome."

"A boy of that age changes very much in a few years."

"He could never change so as to grow out of my recollection," said Jennie
with a positiveness that made Tom Gordon smile.

"And of all the strange things that were ever done by a child," said Mrs.
Warmore, "none ever equalled what Jennie did while floating in the water."

"Indeed, what could that be?"

"Tell him yourself, daughter."

The young lady blushed and laughed.

"I don't know what possessed me to do it. I hardly think I was conscious
of matters or responsible for all I did. When the lad was fighting his way
through the icy waters, I remember snatching a chain and locket containing
my likeness from my neck, and twisting the chain about a button on his
coat. I had a feeling of wishing to do something that should help him to
remember me. After that I became wholly unconscious."

"It seems to me the little fellow was rewarded by securing the chain and
locket," remarked Tom with a significant smile.

"That was but a trifle compared to what he ought to have received,"
replied Jennie.

"You forget that it contained _your_ picture."

The compliment was so neatly put that all laughed, and the face of the
young lady became rosier than ever.

"Pardon me," Tom hastened to say; "of course the little fellow has
preserved those mementoes, and I should not he surprised if he turns up
some day when least expected."

"I hope so," was the fervent response of Jennie, in which sentiment her
parents joined.

It is not necessary to dwell upon the evening, which was a red letter one
in Tom Gordon's life. No more delightful hours were ever spent by him; and
when, without tarrying too late, he left, he could make no mistake as to
the sentiments of the three, and especially the youngest, toward him. He
had made an impression there, and it would be his own fault if it failed
to ripen into something serious.

But, as he walked homeward in the silvery moonlight, he felt a respect for
himself which, it is safe to say, would have come to few placed as he was.
He had not given the first hint that he was the boy who, at the risk of
his own life, had leaped into the wintry waters and rescued little Jennie
Warmore from death.

Who would have held back the secret in his situation? Would you or I?
Doubtful, if when smitten with love for a fair, sweet girl, we had felt
that its telling would have riveted the bonds which, at the most, were
only partly formed, and might dissolve into nothingness if not thus
strengthened.

It was the youth's fine-grained sense of honor that restrained him.

"She holds a good opinion of me now. If it should ever happen that that
feeling grows into love (and Heaven grant it may!), it must be for me
alone, and not for any accident in the past. Suppose I had not done her a
good turn to-day,--she might have discarded Catherwood for his baseness,
but what would have caused her to transfer her regard to me? No, she shall
never know the whole truth until--until"--

He dared not finish the thrilling sentence, the blissful hope, the wild
dream, that set his nerves dancing. Unto us all can come that radiant,
soulful, all-absorbing emotion but once in our life, and it is too sacred
to be trifled with; for once destroyed, once crushed, once dead, and the
holy thing vanishes forever.

Two noticeable truths became manifest to Tom Gordon on the morrow. G.
Field Catherwood's dislike of him was intensified. The young man had felt
from the first that the head clerk was not only more attractive than he in
looks, but was far brighter intellectually. Added now to this was the
feeling of jealousy. He had received from Jennie Warmore a too pointed
expression of her contempt for him to have any possible room for
misunderstanding it. When he ventured to hint at their engagement, which
had been discussed, but never formally made, she shook her head
decisively, and his heart collapsed.

He had strolled by the house early in the evening, having fully recovered
from the injuries resulting from the runaway, and was on the point of
passing through the gate, when he observed a figure ahead of him. One
quick glance disclosed that it was young Gordon, on his way to pass the
evening there. That knowledge caused the dude to wheel about and go to the
hotel, where he made his home. And as he strode along the highway, his
heart overflowed with the bitterness of gall and wormwood.

He made no attempt to conceal his feelings on the following day, when he
and Gordon came in contact at the store. Tom avoided him as much as
possible; but, of necessity, they occasionally came together, and the
repulsion was mutual. This unpleasantness was fully offset not only by the
consciousness of the regard of Miss Warmore, but by the cordial manner of
her father. Those signs of distrust which he had shown during the past
week were gone, and his kindness and consideration for the young man were
so marked as to attract the attention of all. It was clear that the mists
between them had vanished.



Chapter XXIII.



That night, after the establishment of Mr. Warmore was closed and the
employees had gone home, two persons remained behind to engage in earnest
consultation. They were the proprietor and G. Field Catherwood, the young
man who expected, at the end of the year, to become an equal partner with
him. The doors were fastened, and the two sat alone in the private office,
the expression on the faces of both showing that some grave matter weighed
upon them.

"How long has this been going on?" asked Mr. Warmore.

"For two weeks or more; that is to say, I discovered it about a fortnight
ago. No doubt it has been kept up in a small way for a long time previous
to that."

"How much do you suppose has been taken altogether?"

"Several hundred dollars; perhaps a thousand."

"And your suspicions point to Mr. Gordon?"

"I am sorry to say they do. Of course he was the last one to suspect; but,
when I began quietly investigating, the trail led unmistakably to him."

"What caused you first to suspect him, Mr. Catherwood?"

"Well, when a merchant finds some, one of his employees is robbing him,
the most natural thing to do is to look into the habits of them all. If he
discovers that one is living beyond his means, he naturally probes a
little farther; and, if his habits prove to be extravagant, the suspicion
increases."

"What did you find out about Mr. Gordon?"

"I accidentally learned that he has a considerable sum in the
savings-bank."

"He deserves credit for that."

"True, if that which was deposited was his own. Besides, he spends a good
deal of money."

"In what way?"

"In the first place, on his clothes."

"He certainly is well dressed, but no more so than his salary will
permit."

"Last week he paid off a mortgage on the farm of Mr. Pitcairn, and then
made a present of it to the old gentleman."

"What was the amount?"

"Several thousand dollars."

"You are mistaken. Mr. Pitcairn told me of it three days ago. He had
promised Mr. Gordon not to tell any one; but the farmer was so happy that
he said he could not keep it back. It was only three hundred dollars,
however."

"Then I was misinformed," Catherwood hastened to say with a flush; "but I
happen to know he is speculating in Wall Street, and betting on the
races."

"That is bad; is your information reliable?"

"There can be no doubt of its truth."

"Have you any objection to telling me the channel through which this
knowledge reached you?"

"I would be glad to do so, but the source at present is confidential."

"Very well; I am sorry to hear this about Mr. Gordon, for, as you know, I
held him in high regard. For the present, let us keep the matter a close
secret. Do not let him see he is under suspicion, and we will not move
until certain there can be no mistake in the matter."

A few minutes later the two walked out of the front door, which was
carefully locked behind them, and sauntered homeward. The younger man went
to the chief hotel of the town, while the elder continued up the highway,
thinking deeply over the subject he had just discussed with Catherwood.

Now, it so happened that Josiah Warmore, the merchant, was a far shrewder
man than G. Field Catherwood suspected. If the latter had been playing a
part, so had the former.

As has been intimated, it came to the knowledge of the merchant, about a
fortnight before, that some one in his employ was systematically robbing
him. Gatherwood first dropped a hint, and then both investigated so far
as the opportunity allowed. The result turned suspicion toward Tom Gordon.
The merchant had learned, in the course of his long and varied experience,
the sad truth that no man in the world can be picked out and declared,
beyond all possibility of doubt, to be absolutely honest. Thousands of
people live and die and go to their graves wrapped in the mantle of
unassailable integrity. It may be they have not defrauded a person out of
a penny, for the simple reason that the temptation has never been strong
enough to make them do so. Had it been a little stronger, they would have
succumbed. Others, after years of straightforward life, have fallen. So it
might be that, though he had given full trust to Tom Gordon, he was not
worthy to receive that trust. This half-belief caused the chill in his
treatment of the young man, so different from that to which he had been
accustomed. Before making up his final judgment, however, Mr. Warmore
resolved that every vestige of doubt should be removed. He sent for Mr.
Fyfe Lathewood, one of the shrewdest detectives in New York City, told him
all the circumstances, and ordered him to find out the whole truth, no
matter what it cost, or where it might strike.

The detective had been at work the better part of a week, without any one
in Bellemore suspecting his identity or business. On the afternoon of the
day in which Tom Gordon checked the runaway pony of Miss Warmore, the
detective dropped into the store, as any stranger might have done, made a
few trifling purchases, and then turned and walked out. As he did so, he
managed to pass close to the proprietor, who was standing at the front,
and whispered:--

"_It isn't Gordon; I'll see you to-night_."

Mr. Warmore was strolling homeward, swinging the heavy cane which he
always carried, when, in passing a small stretch of woods just beyond the
outskirts of the town, a man stepped from among the trees with the stealth
of a shadow and waited for him to approach. The merchant hesitated a
moment in doubt of his identity, but the other spoke in a low voice,--

"It's all right; come on."

"I wasn't quite sure," remarked Mr. Warmore, turning aside among the
trees, where he could talk with the detective without the possibility of
being seen or overheard.

"Well," said the merchant in a guarded voice, "what is it?"

"It was a dirty piece of business to throw suspicion on that young Gordon.
He is as innocent as you or I."

"What did you learn about him?"

"You told me of that mortgage which he paid off for the farmer where he
has lived so long."

"Yes; there is no doubt of the truth of that."

"He has been in your employ for four or five years. You tell me he is
saving, and has no bad habits. So the paying of such a small mortgage
ought not to be impossible."

"By no means."

"Nor would it be strange if he had a nest-egg in the savings-bank?"

"Knowing him as well as I do, I would be surprised if such was not the
fact. There is no one in the world dependent on him, and his wages are
liberal. But what about Wall Street and the races?"

"He has never risked a dollar there, I am sure of it."

"I had my doubts, but Catherwood told me he had positive information."

"He simply lied to you--that's all. Have you found how this money is taken
from you? Does it disappear through the day,--that is, is it missing at
night in making up the accounts, or is the money short in the morning?"

"It has happened in both ways."

"You do not keep a private watchman?"

"We have one who passes along the front every half hour or so, and looks
in to see if the light is burning, and everything is right. Two of the
clerks sleep overhead, so it would seem that such a thing as burglary is
out of the question."

"Can you get me inside the store to-night without being seen?"

"I guess I can manage it," replied the merchant in surprise.

"How would you like to go with me? There will be no personal danger. I
will see to that."

"What time of the night do you wish to enter?"

"It isn't likely there will be a visitor before midnight; but, to make
sure, we will say about eleven."

"I can warn the watchman"--

"You mustn't think of such a thing! We must slip inside without a soul
knowing it. The watchman is the last one to trust."

"Do you suspect _him_?" asked the astonished Mr. Warmore.

"Not in the least; but you must never trust any person when it can
possibly be avoided. Doubtless, he means well, but he may leak. The
gentleman for whom we are looking might take it into his head to quiz him:
do you see?"

"It shall be as you say. Will you call for me?"

"Yes; it will be safe enough, I think, to do that."

After his family had retired, Mr. Warmore lit a cigar a few minutes before
the time mentioned, and sauntered down the path in front of his house.
Detective Lathewood was prompt, and met him at his gate. They walked
briskly along the highway, until they entered the town and approached the
large establishment which had been in the possession of the Warmore family
for the better part of a century. The merchant's familiarity with his own
premises enabled him to enter by a back way, without attracting the
attention of the watchman or any one. They waited till the streets, which
were quite clear at that late hour, showed no one near, when they slipped
inside, and closed the door behind them.

It was important that the two clerks sleeping upstairs should not be
awakened; for they were not only likely to begin shooting, if they heard
intruders below, but, of necessity, would learn of the project which the
detective and the merchant had in mind.

Every foot was familiar to Mr. Warmore, who reached the large main room of
his establishment without mishap. Lathewood did the same, by keeping close
to him, and feeling each inch of the way.

Here there was a light burning; and they had to be extremely careful,
since their movements could be seen by any one passing the front. The
opportunities, however, for concealment were so good that they readily
secured a place where they could sit down behind the far end of the
counter, and remain unobserved in comfort. This was done, and the trying
wait began.

The detective was so accustomed to that sort of thing, that he remained
cool and collected. He would have liked to smoke a cigar to help while
away the time, but was too wise to attempt anything of the kind. The odor
of tobacco would be certain to warn any one who entered by means of the
front door.

Mr. Warmore was nervous, for the experience was new to him. He succeeded
by a great effort in keeping himself well in hand, venturing only to
whisper a word now and then.

"You don't think he is likely to come in the back way?" he asked in a
guarded undertone.

"There is not the slightest danger of his doing so. That would look
suspicious. He will use the front door, so, if seen and challenged, he
will be ready with the excuse that he has called on legitimate business of
his own. At the same time, he will try to manage it so as not to be
observed by any one. That watchman of yours is not the keenest-eyed fellow
in the world."

Some time later, just as the town clock finished booming the hour of
midnight, the officer touched the arm of his companion, who said,--

"I haven't noticed anything; what is it?"

"Did you hear some one walk past?"

"Yes; the footfall sounded plainly enough: what of it?"

"That is the third time that man has gone by. He is on the alert."

"It may have been different persons."

"It was the same man--sh! there he comes on the porch."

In the stillness of the night the sound was plainly heard. The next moment
a key turned in the lock of the door, which was silently shoved inward.

The visitor, whoever he was, acted with the coolness of a professional. He
entered by the main door, so, if it chanced that any one saw him, he could
explain the cause of his visit. At the same time, he made as sure as was
possible that no one did see him. Knowing the movements of the watchman,
he waited until he was out of the way, with the certainty that he would
not be back again under a half-hour at the least. That interval was more
than sufficient to do all that he had in mind, and to take his departure.

He opened the door so quietly that, but for the warning rattle of the key,
it would have been hard for the watchers to hear him. Almost before they
knew it he stood inside with the door closed. Here the light fell upon
him, and revealed his identity to the men at the rear.

Neither was surprised. Although they had not mentioned their suspicions to
each other, both were morally certain the thief would prove to be the man
whom they now identified. G. Field Catherwood.

Walking quickly and softly across the floor to the private office, which
opened off from the other end of the counter, the prospective partner of
the business stooped down, turned the shining knob of the safe round until
the right combination had been struck, and swung back the immense, massive
door. Then from an inner drawer he drew the merchant's bank-book, in which
were clasped several hundred dollars in bills. Two of the largest
denomination--fifty each--were withdrawn, and the book returned to its
place.

No veteran could have been cooler than Catherwood. He looked and acted no
more like the exquisite on the steamboat than did Tom Gordon himself. He
was the sleek, cunning, hypocritical villain he had always been, stealing,
not because he was in need of money, but because it was his nature to do
so.

"_Well, Mr. Catherwood, it looks as if the account will be a little short
to-morrow_!"

The miscreant started as if he had heard the warning of a rattlesnake at
his feet. Turning like a flash, he saw Mr. Warmore standing at his elbow.
Had he received but a few seconds' notice, he might have tried to bluff it
out, by pretending he had come to look after some matters about which he
was not fully satisfied. Holding the situation he did in the
establishment, he could feel certain no one would suspect him of any
sinister purpose.

But the exposure dropped like a thunderbolt. He had not an instant to
prepare himself. He was caught in the act, and could explain nothing.

Mr. Warmore, upon seeing who the thief was, whispered to the detective,--

"Leave him to me; don't show yourself, unless he resists."

Before the shivering rogue could make protest, the merchant, suppressing
his anger, said with a coolness which surprised himself as much as it did
the officer crouching a few paces away, with his hand on his revolver,--

"We will call the amount stolen an even thousand dollars, Mr. Catherwood.
How soon will you be prepared to restore it?"

"Why--why--why"--

"As a beginning, suppose you return that which you have just taken."

Catherwood did as ordered without a word.

"Now re-lock the safe. Be sure you have the right combination. No one
knows it besides you and me. I will give you a week in which to send back
the rest."

G. Field Catherwood was recovering his nerve. He was furious with himself
that he had been so completely knocked out.

"Suppose I don't choose to return it, what then?"

"It will be ten years or more in State prison."

"Bah! you will have a sweet time proving anything against me."

"I have a witness at hand."

"W-w-what!"

"_Give me the word and I'll have the nippers on him before you can say
Jack Robinson_."

The detective, without rising to his feet or allowing himself to be seen,
uttered these words in such a sepulchral tone that they almost lifted the
hair on the head of the criminal. He started, and stared affrightedly back
in the gloom.

"What do you say?" asked the merchant.

"It's all right; it's all right. I'll send it to you as soon as I can get
back to the city. Don't be too hard on a fellow, Warmore. I declare"--

"Enough has been said. Now go!"

He went.

"You are too tender-hearted," remarked Detective Lathewood, when he and
Mr. Warmore were walking homeward.

"Perhaps I am; but mean as is the man, I shuddered at the thought of
disgracing and ruining him for life."

"But it was _he_, not _you_, who does that."

"True; I know that's the way you officers of the law look at it. But this
is not the first time I have had dealings with young men who have yielded
to temptation. I think it is safer to err on the side of charity than
that of sternness. It is better to reform than to punish a man."

"Do you think you have reformed that specimen?"

"Far from it; he is the most contemptible scoundrel I ever knew. He is
rich, and therefore has no excuse for stealing. Worse than all, he tried
to ruin a young man whose shoe-latchet he is not worthy to unloose."

"So you unloose _him_. But let him go. He is certain not to trouble you or
any of your family again."

Two days later Mr. Warmore received a certified check for nine hundred
dollars; and thus the account between him and G. Field Catherwood was
closed. He was never seen in Bellemore again. Ten years later he died,
while travelling abroad with a woman whom he had made his wife. Then, for
the first time, Tom Gordon learned the particulars of the night when Mr.
Warmore assisted the detective.

Let us take one more, and the final, leap forward. Three years have passed
since Tom Gordon checked runaway Jack, and saved the life of pretty Jennie
Warmore. They have been three years of undimmed happiness to both; for
during the last one of those years they two became man and wife.

Oh, it all came about so naturally, that you would not care to know the
particulars. Tom was given a share in the business which he had done so
much to develop; and on the day previous to his wedding his prospective
father-in-law presented him with a half interest, thus insuring him a
handsome income for life.

Tom made one condition, which was carried out in spirit and letter. Mr.
Pitcairn, from whose hospitable roof he took his final departure, was to
have all the groceries, dry-goods, and every sort of supplies from the
store as long as he lived, without paying one penny therefor. And it is a
pleasure to record that this arrangement continued without break until the
old couple were finally laid to rest in the churchyard beside poor Jim
Travers who had passed on long before.

Among the wedding presents to the bride was the locket and chain which she
herself had taken from her neck years previous, when drowning in the North
River, and linked about the button on the coat of her rescuer. She and her
parents were amazed beyond measure as they stood with only her smiling
husband present, examining the treasure.

"It is the same," said the wondering mother, opening the locket, and
looking at the childish features, "the very one you wore about your neck
on that awful night."

"But where did it come from?" asked the father, taking it from his wife's
hand, and examining it with an interest that can hardly be described.

"There is no name with it," added Jennie, "and--do you know anything about
it, Tom?" she asked abruptly, turning short upon him.

"Didn't I tell you years ago, when you related the story, that the boy
would turn up sooner or later. Well, he has done so, and what of it?"

"But where is he?"

He opened his arms, and the proud, happy bride rushed into his embrace,
while the parents stared, not able quite to understand what it all meant.

"Yes," said he, looking around, "I was the fortunate boy who jumped into
the water after you, and found that chain wound round the button of my
coat. I have kept it and the locket ever since, but I never knew you were
the original until I heard the story from your lips."

"You scamp!" exclaimed Mr. Warmore. "And you never said a word about it."

"Yes, you mean fellow, why didn't you tell us?" demanded Jennie, disposed
to pout.

"You were sure you would know the young gentleman; and I meant that if I
ever gained your love you should love me for myself, and not for any
accident of the past."

"But--but how jolly it would have been if we had known it was you! For you
see I have had two heroes all along. One was you, and the other was that
unknown boy who took a plunge in the icy river for my sake."

"You may have those two heroes still," said Tom.

"So I have; but now the two are one."

"And so are _we_," he added, touching his lips to the sweet mouth that did
not refuse to meet them.

"And any way, I could not love you a bit more than I have all along."

And the grateful, happy fellow, in looking back over his stormy boyhood
and young manhood, and feeling how strongly he had striven at all times to
live by the Golden Rule, knew in his heart that it was to that fact that
he had Fought the Battle that Won.

       *       *       *       *       *

The second volume in the "Brave and Honest" Series is entitled "Honest
Ned."





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