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´╗┐Title: Under Fire - A Tale of New England Village Life
Author: Munsey, Frank Andrew, 1854-1925
Language: English
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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.

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 UNDER FIRE

 _A TALE OF NEW ENGLAND VILLAGE LIFE_

 BY

 FRANK A. MUNSEY



 [Illustration]



 NEW YORK
 FRANK A. MUNSEY

 1898



 COPYRIGHT, 1897
 BY
 FRANK A. MUNSEY



UNDER FIRE.



I.


"Well, Dave, it was a close game, but we managed to save ourselves after
all their talk," said Tom Martin, referring to a baseball match of the
previous day.

"Yes, but thanks to our lucky stars that Fred Worthington was with us.
If John Rexford had kept him at the store, as I was afraid, we should
have been badly beaten."

"He didn't play the whole game, did he?" asked Tom sarcastically.

"Of course not," retorted Dave Farrington, with some warmth, "but you
know very well we should have lost it, if it had not been for him. If he
saved us from defeat, why not be fair and give him credit for it? I am
sure he would do as much for you if the case were reversed."

"I didn't say anything against him."

"No; but you don't appear to say anything for him."

"Why should I?"

"Well, I can say frankly that his playing was equal to that of some
professionals that I have seen. The factory boys couldn't get the hang
of his pitching, and the best batters fouled nearly every ball."

"Don't you want some credit for catching?" asked Tom, with a view to
turning the conversation from Fred.

"Yes, but----" Here the conversation was interrupted by the sudden
appearance of Matthew De Vere, a rather foppishly dressed boy, who
showed very clearly by his manner that he considered himself the "swell
young man" of the town.

"Oh, boys, I have a bit of good news for you," he cried. "Guess what it
is."

"Anything startling?" asked Tom.

"No; but it is something you and Dave will both like."

"Tell us what it is. We give it up, don't we, Dave?"

"Grace Bernard is going to have a party--a birthday party."

"A party?" echoed Dave. "Who told you?"

"My sister Annie just came from Mr. Bernard's and said so."

"When is it to be?" chimed in both boys eagerly.

"Next Thursday evening," answered their informant.

"Well, that strikes me about right," replied Tom, with evident pleasure
at the prospect. "How old is Grace, I wonder?"

"She will be sixteen next Thursday," returned Matthew.

"I'm glad some one has life enough to wake us up a little. I'm hungry
for a 'racket,'" put in Dave. "The evenings are getting long, and it is
too cold to rove about much. Three cheers, I say, for Grace Bernard! I
speak for the first waltz with her."

The cheers were given with a will, for the mere mention of a party, the
first one of the season, was sufficient to make the boys enthusiastic.

"I wonder who will be invited," said Matthew; and then added, with a
scowl, "well, I don't care who is if Fred Worthington only gets left; _I
hate him_. He tries to push himself ahead too much for a fellow in his
circumstances, and since he has gone into John Rexford's store he is
worse than ever."

"I don't know why he should not be invited as well as any of us," said
Dave Farrington. "He is certainly one of the smartest boys in the
village, both at his books and at whatever else he undertakes; and the
fact that his father is a poor man ought not to be against him;" then,
with a sly wink at Tom, he added, "and you may be certain he won't be
overlooked, for he and Nellie Dutton are getting to be very good
friends, and of course Grace Bernard will ask him on her account, if for
no other reason."

Now Matthew liked Nellie Dutton himself, and like most rich boys (his
father was a retired sea captain and president of the Mapleton National
Bank), could ill bear the deprivation of anything which his fancy
craved. Therefore the thought that a poor fellow, like Fred Worthington,
might come between him and the object of his fancy was exceedingly
disagreeable.

This was one reason why he "hated" Fred; the other was, he could not
lord it over him, as he did over most of the Mapleton boys, for Fred had
a will of his own, as well as a perfect physical development, which
convinced Matthew, bully as he was, that it would not be well to grapple
with him.

Dave's remark was a sharp one, and had the effect of bringing the color
to Matthew's face, though he strove hard to hide his confusion.

Both boys noticed this, and Tom, who was always ready for fun, even at
the expense of a friend, said:

"Yes, I saw Fred walk home with Nellie from Sunday school last week; and
it seems to me he has to go up to her father's rather often with goods
from the store. I guess the doctor will have quite a bill to pay at
Rexford's, unless Fred makes two or three trips up there to carry what
he might take in one. But never mind, Matthew, school will soon
commence; then you will have the advantage of him, for he will be in the
store."

Matthew grew decidedly angry at these remarks, and said somewhat
savagely:

"I'll have the advantage of him without waiting for school, now you mark
my words."

"How are you going to get it?" asked Tom.

"You just wait and you will see. I don't tell everything I know."

"Fred has a big muscle," suggested Tom, "and they say he can use his
hands pretty lively, too."

"There is no need of informing De Vere on that point," remarked Dave,
"for it isn't very long since he and Fred gave a little exhibition at
school."

"Come, Mat, tell us all about it," said Tom. "I never heard of that
before."

"I won't tell you anything," answered De Vere gruffly; "he can't put on
airs with me any more; and if he goes to that party and pays any
attention to Nellie Dutton, he will get into trouble."

"If Nellie wants his attention she will be pretty sure to have it, for
you can't frighten him--he isn't easily scared," remarked Dave, in a
way that irritated Matthew.

"I should say not," said Tom, with a sly wink at Dave, "and judging from
appearances Nellie is as pleased with his attentions as he is with her
company."

But Matthew possessed a good share of conceit, and knowing Nellie to be
quite friendly to himself, he imagined that his advantage over Fred
would be so great that he could readily monopolize the attention of the
young lady in question, and therefore replied with more assurance:

"There is no fear of her bothering with him, for I propose to take up
her time pretty well myself;" and then he added in language that was a
perfect index to his character, "say, boys, if Worthington should be
there, let's make it so uncomfortable for him that he will never show
himself again at one of our parties. We can occupy the attention of the
girls, so they will leave him alone to slink into the corner and hate
himself, while we enjoy the waltz and make fun of him. If you will only
do this, I hope he will be there, just to let all see how awkward he is
among his betters."

Some other boys here joined the group, and the conversation was broken
off. But Dave Farrington took occasion to remark in an undertone to
Tom:

"If Mat De Vere and a dozen more just like him should try to keep the
girls away from Fred Worthington, they'd find a big contract on their
hands; and the one who 'hated himself' would not be Fred, either. Just
wait till the party comes off, then look out for fun."



II.


Mapleton is a good type of a New England village, showing everywhere
plentiful evidences of thrift and energy.

Of course it has a manufacturing industry of some sort, or it could
hardly be a New England village; and the chief building of Mapleton, in
this line, is a large woolen factory that employs about three hundred
hands. There are also a number of minor industries, together with
stores, churches, and school houses. It is not a large town, there
being, perhaps, three thousand inhabitants all told.

Among so small a number one might suppose that the people would mingle
freely, and that exclusiveness would not thrive. At the time of which I
am writing it did not thrive to any great extent; still, it was there,
and showed itself principally in the refusal of the "town's people," so
called, to associate with the "factory folks."

Exceptions were made, however, in the case of the head officers of the
company, and the overseers of certain departments of the mill, who, by
virtue of their positions, which brought them in a liberal salary, were
graciously welcomed to the homes of the villagers.

These two branches of society had their different "sets." That of the
"villagers" was made up, as is usually the case, by the drawing together
of the well to do, the influential, and the better educated citizens,
while the others were left to form such social connections as their
opportunities afforded.

Fred Worthington's parents mingled with the latter class, for they were
far from rich. His father was a shoemaker, and earned only a small sum
weekly; but through the excellent management of his mother, they had a
neat and comfortable home.

During Fred's younger days he thought nothing of these dividing lines of
society; but as he had grown to be, as he considered, a young man--and,
indeed, he really did possess more of that enviable bearing than most
boys at the age of sixteen--he had come to realize that there was such a
thing as a social difference between men whose Maker created them equal.

This fact impressed him more forcibly since he found that some of his
companions with whom he had grown up, played, and studied side by side
in school for years, were now apparently beginning to ignore him.

"Is there any reason for this?" he often asked himself. "Have they
suddenly accomplished some great thing, or done some heroic deed which
gives them distinction? Or is the trouble with me? If so, where does it
lie? Surely I stood among the very first in my class at school--far
ahead of Matthew De Vere and his sister, and some of the others who
treat me so coolly. I wonder if clerking in a store is disgraceful? I
always thought it an honorable thing to be a merchant. Merchants are
everywhere among our most influential men.

"I have always kept good company," he reflected, "and never had trouble
with any of the boys, except Matthew De Vere, just before I left school,
and that wasn't my fault. I taught him a lesson, though, that I think he
will remember, and ever since then he has been trying to pay me for it
by turning the girls and boys against me; but only a few of them have
shown any change.

"I know my father and mother do not belong to the same 'set' as theirs,
but that is no reason why they should slight me, and _it shall not be_.
I will work my way up and make them acknowledge me if it takes years to
do it. But as long as Nellie Dutton and some others are friendly, I
don't care so much."

When Fred heard of the party to be given by Grace Bernard, he was in a
feverish state of suspense, wondering whether he would be invited or
not. He felt that this was a crisis with him.

He had left school, but he argued that if he were only fortunate enough
to attend this party, he would be placed on a good social footing, one
that he could maintain as he gradually built himself up in the store;
but should luck now go against him, he would be practically separated
from many of his school companions, and separation meant disaster to a
certain friendship that he prized more highly than all the rest, and
which, as he believed, it would not be well to leave uncultivated even
for a short time.

"Hello, Fred, got your invitation yet?" asked Dave, a few days before
that fixed upon for the party.

"No, I haven't seen anything of it. Have you had yours?"

"Oh, yes; got it yesterday. I don't see where yours is though."

"It looks as if I were to be left out, Dave," replied Fred, with an
assumed air of cheerfulness.

"That can't be. There is plenty of time. Don't worry."

This was a little reassuring, and Fred tried to believe it to be
so--tried hard--but it looked to him, nevertheless, as if his case were
a hopeless one.

For he reflected that the unfed fire soon dies, while that which is
kept alive even by the smallest spark may at some time become a glowing
blaze. But his fears were all for nothing, as in due time the much
looked for invitation arrived.

On the eventful night our hero dressed with care and taste, giving his
youthful locks especial attention, as all boys of his age do whenever
they go into company, and then hastened to Dave's home to go with him to
the party.

The large double parlors of Mr. Bernard's house were well filled with
girls, about Grace's own age, when the two boys arrived. After the
latter had disposed of their coats and hats, and had taken a final look
to see that each particular hair was in its proper place, they entered
the main parlor rather shyly.

"Good evening, Dave," said Grace. "I'm glad you came early, for nearly
all the girls are here, and I hope you will help entertain them; and
here is Fred," she added, extending her hand to him. "I am very glad you
came. I have hardly spoken with you since you left school, but I see the
store life has not taken away your color yet."

If Fred had a good share of color to begin with, it was not lessened by
this remark. However, he managed to keep his presence of mind, and
replied heartily:

"No, I hope not, but allow me to congratulate you on your birthday, for
you are looking your best. I hope you may have many happy returns of the
occasion."

Some one else blushed now, and evidently enjoyed the compliment, which
Fred had managed very well, as indeed he ought to have done, for he had
repeated it to himself at least forty five times that afternoon.

"I didn't know you could say such nice things, Fred, but I don't half
believe you mean it," rejoined Grace. "But there is Nellie all alone on
the sofa. Come with me and take a seat beside her; you two must
entertain each other while I receive Matthew and Tom, and some others
who I see have just come in."

"I was afraid something would happen so that you couldn't come," said
Nellie, as he took her proffered hand.

"I couldn't very easily stay away," he replied, sitting down beside her.

"Why, how funny! And why not?" she inquired, trying to suppress a blush.

"The evening promised to be such an enjoyable one," he answered; "and
yet I hardly dared to anticipate such good fortune as I have met with
thus far."

"Oh, Fred, you are learning to flatter, I do believe! I didn't think
that of you."

"If flattery is saying what one truly means, then I am flattering you;
for if I had arranged my own program, you and I would occupy about the
same positions as we do now. It couldn't suit me better, and I only hope
you are as well pleased," he added.

"I believe you and Grace arranged this together," she answered
evasively, "without saying anything to me. I must scold her;" and she
partially covered her face with her fan, which seemed to mean that she
was well satisfied.

"I am sure I had nothing to do with the arrangement. I must thank Grace
for it, and I hope you won't scold her very hard, as this is her
birthday; but before it is too late let me ask you if you will favor me
with the first dance?"

"Oh, with pleasure," she replied, but at the same time she wondered if
he knew the dance. She had never heard of his dancing, but the first
part of the opening one was to be a march, and she knew he could take
part in that, even if they had to drop out of the waltz later on.

"Good evening, Nellie," said Matthew, who now came up and extended his
hand, adding, with an air of assurance, "I see the music is ready to
start, shall we not lead the march?"

"Thank you, but I am already engaged for that," she returned, casting
her eyes towards Fred.

"Then you won't march with me?" he asked, flushing with evident anger at
the rebuff.

"I must keep my engagement," she replied.

"Keep your engagement with a _stick_," he rejoined, and walked away with
a look of contempt on his face.

The last remark made young Worthington's blood boil, but he had the good
sense to take no apparent notice of it, though he fixed it well in his
memory for future use.

De Vere seated himself in a remote corner--the place he had expected to
see Fred occupy--and looked sullenly on as the march progressed, but
evidently with some degree of pleasure at the utter failure he felt sure
our hero would make. In this again he was doomed to disappointment; for
to his surprise and chagrin he found his rival quite at home in the
waltz. He and Nellie were unmistakably the most graceful as well as the
best looking couple on the floor.

But Matthew was not the only surprised one present. Dave looked on with
amazement, and Nellie hardly seemed to believe her own senses.

"Why, Fred, when did you learn to dance so well?" she asked, as they
walked around the room arm in arm. "I never had a better partner."

"Thank you, Nellie, for the compliment," he replied, with a slight
blush. "I only hope I managed to get through without exhausting your
patience. I was so afraid I should prove very stupid, I know so little
about the waltz."

"Oh, no, you were far from stupid, and I never enjoyed a dance more; but
I am awfully curious to know where you learned so much without attending
dancing school."

"'Never enjoyed a dance more,' and with me, too," thought Fred, with a
delight which he could not conceal.

"My cousin from Boston, the young lady who spent the summer at my home,
taught me all I know about it," he replied.

"And have you never had any other practice?"

"No, that was all."

"Well, she must have been an excellent teacher, and you as good a
scholar as you always were at school."

Presently the music ceased, and Dave, Grace, and others came up and
congratulated Fred upon his waltzing, and Nellie on her partner.

The party as a whole was a great success, and passed off gayly. It had
no feature to distinguish it from others of its kind in country towns.
This particular event has been briefly referred to, because, as a
consequence of it, something occurred that most cruelly clouded Fred
Worthington's young days, and changed the whole course of his life.



III.


De Vere saw plainly that, in spite of his endeavors to injure Fred, the
latter was more of a favorite than himself. He supposed that he had
accomplished something of his design before the party took place, but
there he found that the result of his malicious endeavors practically
extended only as far as his sister.

Indeed, he almost fancied that his thrusts had been turned against
himself, for no one seemed to care for him especially. He was very moody
and sulky at his disappointment. He had overestimated his strength and
importance, as boys of his stamp always do; moreover, he thought Nellie
treated him very coolly, and it is just possible that she did, as her
time was fully taken up by another person, and the mere absence of
attention on her part was sufficient to make Matthew sullen and
disagreeable.

This sourness was noticed by all, and they left him to himself, pretty
much as he had hoped to see them treat his rival. The tables were fairly
turned upon him, as he could not fail to see. But he had intimated that
if Fred attended this party, and matters went a certain way, he would
have his revenge.

He resolved to carry out this threat, and so passed a great part of the
evening in mischievous plotting.

When it was time for the party to break up, notwithstanding the fact
that he had behaved so rudely and had not participated in any of the
games, or other forms of amusement, he gathered himself together,
approached Miss Nellie, and proposed to serve as her escort.

But Nellie answered, with a demure look and a twinkle in her eye, that
another young gentleman had kindly offered to do her that favor.

It is said that under certain conditions even a straw may break a
camel's back, but this refusal of Nellie's was no straw to Matthew. It
was rather a sledge hammer blow, which brought bad temper and made him
desperately angry.

He seized his hat, and without further conversation with any one, left
the house and strode sullenly down the street. At the first corner he
turned up a by path, and then ran across lots to the main street, and
entered a drinking saloon.

"Why did you play, then?" the bartender was asking savagely, addressing
a rough looking boy, Tim Short by name. "You have owed me for two
months, and now here is another game of billiards to charge."

"I thought I should beat," said Tim, with a discouraged and demoralized
look.

"That's what you've thought every time, but that don't pay me. I'm going
to have my money now. If you don't pay, I will get it from your father;
so come, square up, and be quick about it."

"I will settle on pay day."

"No, that won't do; you have promised that before. Either give me
something for security or I will see your father tomorrow."

"How much is the whole bill?" asked Matthew.

"One dollar," replied the bartender.

"Here, Tim, is the dollar. I will lend it to you. Pay him and come with
me."

Young Short clutched the dollar eagerly, and turned it over to his
creditor with evident reluctance.

"Come, Tim," went on Matthew, "let us go home; it is late for us to be
out."

The latter looked upon Matthew as his benefactor, and followed him
promptly into the street. When the two were quite alone by themselves,
De Vere took his companion by the arm and said:

"I'm in luck finding you, Tim. I rushed down to the saloon, but I was
afraid you had gone home, it is so late."

"And I'm better off than you to have my bill paid. How is it you are in
luck, and paying out money so free?"

"Never mind the money, Tim," De Vere replied nervously. "I want you to
do me a favor. Will you?"

"Will I? Well, I should think I would."

"Will you promise never to mention what I say to any one?"

"I promise."

"It would get us both into trouble if you should, Tim."

"But it ain't nothin' so awful bad, is it, Matthew?" asked Tim, with a
tremor of alarm in his voice.

"I think I can trust you, Tim," replied De Vere, ignoring his
companion's question.

"I know you can, after all you have done for me," replied Tim
gratefully.

De Vere drew young Short close to him as they turned into a dark, narrow
street.

"Tim," said he, in suppressed agitation, "you know those tall oak trees
on the old Booker road?"

"What, them by the cave in the big rock, do you mean?"

"Yes, that's the place."

Young Short commenced to breathe fast with excitement.

"You know, Tim," said De Vere, scarcely above a whisper, "you know the
bushes and rock together furnish a good hiding place."

"I should think they would," responded Tim dubiously.

"We've got some work to do there."

"What, not tonight?"

"Yes, as soon as we can get there, or it will be too late."

"Don't you think it's too late now, Matthew?" suggested Tim.

"I tell you to come along," commanded De Vere in anything but a pleasant
mood.

"You didn't tell me what you are going there for."

"I have good reasons for going there. I want to get square with a
fellow," responded Matthew, with a ring of revenge in his voice.

"But couldn't you do it just as well alone?"

"No, I couldn't."

"Afraid?" queried Tim.

This question did not have a good effect upon Matthew's nerves, but he
was too prudent to fly into a passion with Tim at this time.

"Who is this fellow?" asked young Short doggedly, after a little
silence.

"Fred Worthington," answered De Vere bitterly. "I'll show him that he
can't interfere with me."

"Fred Worthington!" echoed Tim; and he stopped short where he was.

"I think we had better get some good clubs," said De Vere.

"And then we will get the worst of it," replied Tim. "I know Fred
Worthington too well to take any chances on him."

"But we will jump out upon him when he is not expecting us," urged
Matthew.

It was hard work to screw Tim's courage up to the necessary point, but
his sense of obligation to Matthew finally overcame his well founded
fears of Fred Worthington's strong arms, and he promised to take part in
the disappointed rival's dastardly plot.

The point to which De Vere led his rascally associate was close beside
the path along which Fred Worthington would have to pass on his way home
from Dr. Dutton's. Although not far beyond the limits of the village, it
was a lonely spot, with no houses near by, and the two young highwaymen
could not have found a more suitable place to put their cruel design
into execution.

Crouching behind the bushes, the cowardly pair lay in wait, each
grasping a heavy stick in his hand, ready to dart out and rain
revengeful blows upon their innocent victim.



IV.


The evening was a memorable one for Fred. His enjoyment had been far
greater than he anticipated; and what a boy of sixteen will not
anticipate is not worth considering.

It seemed to him, as he left Grace Bernard's with a proud step and
lightsome heart, that he had been blue over the society question for
nothing, for, in fact, had he at this time possessed no friend save the
single one whose arm now rested upon his own, he would have been fully
satisfied. Perchance, in his boyish imaginings, he was more happy than
he could ever be in after years, even though his brightest dreams should
become a living reality.

And it is but just to Fred to say that his fair companion, as they
walked leisurely toward her home, was almost if not quite as happy as
himself.

This was the first time they had ever been out together in the evening,
and as he somewhat timidly pressed her arm closely to his side, he felt
all the pride of a hero in performing such delightful, if not dangerous,
escort duty. But indeed there was danger enough awaiting him, though it
lay in ambush, and he had not considered the possibility of its
existence.

The distance to Nellie's home was not great, but it may reasonably be
suspected that the time occupied in traversing it was somewhat
prolonged. Under similar circumstances, with such delightful company,
the reader himself would perhaps have used every honorable device to
consume as many minutes as possible before parting with his fair
associate. I shall not criticise such a course, but will be just frank
enough to say that this is exactly what Fred did do.

Of course, by way of conversation, it was natural to discuss the evening
party and those present. Young De Vere very justly came in for a degree
of censure.

"What could have been the trouble with Matthew?" asked Nellie, clinging
closely to Fred as they passed a lonesome lane.

"I'd rather not discuss him," replied the latter.

"Why not? Is he such a friend of yours that you will say nothing against
him? Surely you can give no excuse for his acting as he did tonight."

"Well, you are partially right."

"In what way?"

"So far as this--that I dislike to speak against any one."

"I thought it could not be you were so friendly that you wished to
shield him."

"No, for he is very unfriendly towards me. Didn't you notice that when
he asked you to waltz with him?"

"Yes, but you did not hear his remark about you, I hope."

"Oh, yes, I heard it--he probably wanted me to hear it--but I could not
notice it there."

"It was hateful and mean in him," replied Nellie sympathetically; "and
he was as rude as he could be all the evening."

Fred had too much spirit to take kindly to being insulted, but Nellie's
warm hearted manner of sympathizing with him, and her criticism of his
rival, made him almost wish De Vere were again present to make some
insolent remark, that he might have the pleasure of hearing Nellie still
further champion his cause.

"But you did not tell me what made him so uncivil," continued Nellie.

"No."

"Do you know?"

"I suppose he was vexed."

"I should think he must have been very much piqued to act as he did."

"Yes, it would seem so."

"But what could have caused it, I wonder?" asked Nellie, with much
innocence.

"Do you really want me to tell you?"

"Why, to be sure I do."

"Couldn't you guess?"

"I know I could not."

"Not if you were to try very hard?"

"No."

"You should be more egotistical, then."

"Why, what do you mean, Fred?"

"I mean that what made him unhappy was just the thing that made me
happy, and gave me the pleasantest evening of my life," replied Fred,
tightening the pressure slightly on his companion's arm.

"I cannot see how this affects me, or proves, as you say, that I should
be more egotistical," replied Miss Nellie, continuing, with feminine
perversity, to feign innocence and ignorance, that she might keep Fred
longer on a topic at once so flattering and delightful.

"Then I will be plainer--very plain--and say that you were the cause
yourself."

If the night had been a light one, Fred would have seen a bewildering
blush cover the face of his companion. As it was, he guessed the truth,
and realized that the effect of his words was altogether gratifying to
Nellie's pride--it could hardly be anything more sentimental than pride.

But now they were at her home--all too soon as it seemed to Fred--and
her father and mother had heard them come up the steps; so the "good
night" must be brief.

Nellie extended her hand, with its graceful, tapering fingers, to him,
and thanked him very prettily for his attention during the evening, and
for escorting her safely home. In return, Fred gave her hand a slight
pressure from the impulse of his honest, manly heart, that meant a
thousand thanks for the pleasure she had given him, which would be a
gratifying recollection for weeks and months to come.



V.


While Fred was enjoying the latter part of his evening so thoroughly,
Matthew was miserable in his anger, as he and his confederate remained
crouched under the shadow of the bushes, chafing at our hero's failure
to appear.

Every minute seemed ten to him, there in the cold night wind, as he
meditated upon the events of the past few hours, and imagined his rival
enjoying the pleasure of escorting Nellie home. The more he thought upon
the matter the more vividly he pictured the situation, and the greater
the contrast seemed to be between his own position and that of the boy
he hated.

And as he dwelt upon this picture, and thought, and thought rightly,
that Fred was prolonging the time in reaching Dr. Dutton's house, his
anger became more bitter against his intended victim, for being kept
there so long in the frosty night.

It was indeed a galling situation for Matthew, and right well he
deserved to be placed in it. He was on a wicked errand--an errand for
which he should have suffered a severe punishment. Still the time went
on, and the cold grew more intense, until their teeth chattered, and
their fingers were benumbed; yet Fred did not appear.

Matthew was so bent on revenge that he hated to give up his evil
project; but he had waited so long, looked, listened, and hoped, and no
sound of footsteps could he hear, that now he broke out angrily:

"Worthington isn't coming, after all--the sneak!"

"Don't believe he is," shivered Tim, who was evidently very anxious to
get out of his contract.

"But he must come this way," continued Matthew.

"He might go to the other road and cut across the grove."

"Why should he do that when it is so much farther? Listen, do you hear
it? There is a step now!" exclaimed De Vere, clutching his club tightly.

"Sure as I'm alive, there he comes," said Tim, pointing to an
approaching object just growing visible.

"Let him get nearly opposite us before striking. Ah, now I'll get square
with him--the tramp! I'll teach him better than to interfere with me,"
continued Matthew, swinging his club as if raining imaginary blows upon
the head of his victim.

"I should think so," observed Tim.

"He will think so, too, in about a minute. He will wish he had not
crossed my path."

"Where shall I hit him?"

"Hit him on the leg so he can't run."

"He might get my club if he has the use of his arms, and then it would
be all day with us," put in Tim, with a hint at caution.

"Don't you worry. I'll fix him quick enough so he won't bother us with
his arms," replied De Vere, in a savage tone.

"How will you do it?"

"Hush, now is the time!" returned Matthew, darting from his hiding
place.

"Stop, you villain!"

The words suddenly rang out upon the night in a powerful voice. They
struck terror to the heart of the highwayman, whose club was raised high
in the air, ready to descend upon his victim.

The sudden appearance of a strong man before him, as if by magic, the
disappointment, the danger and the surprise, almost paralyzed Matthew
with fear, and he dropped his club and fled, like the coward that he
was.

But not so fortunate in escaping was young Tim Short, for before he had
time to realize the unexpected situation his club fell heavily upon the
leg of the man that he had taken for Fred Worthington.

Though he heard the command to stop, and did actually break the force of
his blow in consequence, nevertheless he struck so hard that Jacob
Simmons, for that was the name of the new comer, thought for a time that
his leg was broken. Notwithstanding this, he made sure of his assailant,
and held him in an iron grasp.

Jacob was fairly taken aback at first as the two boys rushed out upon
him, but Tim's well aimed club speedily brought him to his senses, and
aroused his temper as well. He consequently fell upon his assailant like
a madman, and choked him till he cried piteously for quarter.

"What does this mean?" demanded Jacob angrily, at the same time
enforcing his demand by shaking his prisoner as a terrier might shake a
rat.

"I do--don--don't know," replied the boy, as he, with much difficulty,
forced breath enough through the grasp of the strong man's hand around
his throat to speak at all.

"Don't, eh?" echoed Mr. Simmons, with another shake, given, probably,
with the view of bringing Tim back to his senses.

"It was a mistake--oh, don't; you will cho--choke me to death."

"Well, then, tell me all about this business, and why you assaulted me
in this outrageous manner."

"We didn't know it was you. We thought----"

"The truth, mind you, now."

"I am telling the truth, and I say we thought you were some one else."

"It was a plot, then, to rob and murder some one else?"

"No, it wasn't, and I didn't have anything to do with the plot. Matthew
hired me to----"

"Matthew who?" interrupted Jacob, whose anger was giving place, to some
extent, to his interest in the affair.

"Matthew De Vere."

"Matthew De Vere!" exclaimed Mr. Simmons, with intense surprise, giving
vent to a low whistle. "His father rich, proud, a banker," continued the
wily Jacob, easing his grasp upon the throat of Tim. "And he, Matthew De
Vere, is the villain who raised his club to hit me on the head--to
murder me, perhaps?"

Young Short caught at the idea of freeing himself by implicating
Matthew, so he replied:

"Yes, he was the fellow, but when he saw his mistake he dusted out, for
it wasn't you he wanted."

"Of course you would plead innocent--all outlaws do--and try to throw
the blame on some one else; but you can't get away now. I shall have you
arrested and locked up for an attempt at robbery and murder."

"Oh, don't--don't!" pleaded Tim, with tears and bitter anguish.

"Come along. I'll have to put you in safe keeping, where you will not
get a chance to try this game of murder again right away."

"Please don't! Oh, don't, Mr. Simmons! I will tell you all I know about
it, and do anything--work all my life for you if you will only let me
go."

"Let you go, after this affair? Yes, I will let you go--go to the
sheriff! Come along, I say."

"It's all Matthew's fault--wanting to lick Fred Worthington."

"Do you expect me to believe such a story? It's a fine yarn to try and
clear yourself when you are the one that almost broke my leg with your
club."

"He told me to hit you----"

"Told you to hit me?"

"I mean to hit Fred, for he was waiting for him--said he wanted to get
square with him."

"Then, according to your own story, you hired yourself to Matthew De
Vere to come here and waylay an innocent boy, and beat him with clubs,
and perhaps murder him."

"Yes; but I didn't think of it in that way or I wouldn't have come.
Matthew hired me."

"So much the worse, if you would sell yourself to do such a wicked
deed. You are as guilty as he, and it is my duty to hand you over to the
State."

It was plainly Mr. Simmons' duty to hand young Short over to the
authorities, but when he found that Matthew De Vere was the principal
offender, a scheme instantly suggested itself to him--a plan to extort
money from the rich banker to keep the affair a secret, and save his
family from disgrace. Thus Jacob's regard for the law and justice, which
was sincere at first, before he saw an opportunity of turning his
knowledge to a money value, was now but an assumed position to draw Tim
out, and to hold over his head the power that would frighten him into
doing his bidding.

By entertaining this idea of suppressing the knowledge of the crime in
order to get the reward Mr. Simmons became, in a sense, a party to the
assault upon himself, and morally guilty with the boys, though
undoubtedly in a less degree.

However, this did not trouble his conscience, as he was one who lived
for money, and he saw here a chance to replenish his pocketbook. He took
Tim with him, and, after getting his story in full regarding Matthew's
object in waylaying Fred Worthington, gave him a conditional pardon;
that is, he agreed to wait a few days before handing him over to the
sheriff, to see if he could get Matthew to buy his liberty by paying
handsomely to suppress the whole affair. If he did not succeed in this,
he assured Tim that he would then be arrested, convicted, and sent to
prison.

Mr. Simmons next told his prisoner that Matthew was liable with him, and
would be arrested at the same time unless he complied with his
proposition, which was that he should be paid five hundred dollars cash
for the injuries he had received. If Matthew and his father did not
comply with this demand, then he would summon the sheriff at once, have
both offenders arrested, and the entire facts made public.

Though five hundred dollars seemed an enormous sum to young Short, he
was nevertheless glad to get off temporarily on these conditions. He
promised to try to raise this amount through Matthew, or, if he failed
in so doing, to secure by some means one hundred dollars to free
himself. Jacob had at last very shrewdly, though with seeming
reluctance, agreed, if Tim could do no better, to take the one hundred
dollars in settlement for the part he played in the assault, provided he
would hold himself in readiness to testify against Matthew.

Short readily agreed to this proposition, and looked upon the
magnanimous Mr. Simmons as a paragon of liberality, and as his best
friend. But before leaving the presence of his benefactor, the latter
was careful to note down all the facts touching upon the assault as
related by Tim, and made the boy sign the statement.

This was a little precaution probably intended to assist Tim's memory if
he should happen to forget some important points.

Jacob never forgot little matters like these when the interest of his
friends was to be considered, and in this especial instance he was
unusually keen.



VI.


Matthew left the scene of the assault very hastily, without even the
ordinary civility of saying good night. This, however, was in keeping
with his manner of leaving the party, for there he did not so much as
thank Miss Grace for her entertainment.

Twice that night he had found walking too slow for his purpose, though
his object in the two cases was quite unlike. In the one instance he was
on a mission of revenge, and in the other he was animated by a keen
desire to avoid the immediate neighborhood of Mr. Jacob Simmons.

He evidently imagined that Jacob's society would not be agreeable to
him. Taking this view of the matter, he thought it would be the wise
thing for him to come away, and not to press himself upon the man at so
late an hour of the night.

He reasoned that there would be no impropriety in such a course, as Mr.
Simmons couldn't be lonesome, for Tim was with him, and would probably
remain with him for the night at least, so he withdrew from the scene.

We commend Matthew's worldly wisdom, as things turned out, in doing just
as he did, for had he remained it is altogether probable that Jacob
would have given him also an exhibition of his muscular powers, and
Matthew--the gentle youth of fine clothes and haughty manner--wouldn't
have taken to it kindly. It wouldn't have been a popular entertainment
for him in any sense.

He seemed fully impressed with this idea of the situation, for never had
he got over the ground so fast as he did that night. He ran the entire
distance to his own home, and even when in his room, with his door
locked, he trembled with fear, and cast nervous glances around, as if
half expecting to see the angry Mr. Simmons rush in and fall upon him
with remorseless blows.

Matthew's evening had been anything but a success. Every move he had
made had not only failed to accomplish his purpose, but had actually
recoiled upon him. He little imagined, though, to what extent this was
the case in his last effort, for his fear was only of immediate bodily
punishment.

As time passed, and his door was not burst open, he began to feel safe
once more, and as terror ceased to occupy his thoughts, it was replaced
by jealousy, and a desire for revenge upon Fred Worthington. He cared
little what became of Tim, and gave him hardly a passing thought since
he himself was safe from harm. He was not in the mood for sleep, so
passed the time in thinking over the events of the evening.

It is a contemptible act of cowardice to lie in wait for a rival, and,
taking him thus at a disadvantage, spring upon him and beat him with
malicious pleasure. But Matthew would have felt no scruples on this
point, for it is just what he had planned to do; and now that he had
made of it a miserable failure, he resolved upon a new plot--an entirely
different form of revenge, but one, in many respects, much more to be
dreaded.

When Fred Worthington's mind finally descended from the clouds, and he
began to think once more in a natural way, he at once took in the
situation. He knew that Matthew did not like him, and he had seen him
leave the party in an angry mood. Knowing him to be so revengeful, he
anticipated that trouble of some sort would follow; but he little
thought what that trouble would prove to be.

Imagine his surprise, therefore, when the next afternoon Matthew called
at the store, in a very gracious mood, to see him and to talk over the
previous evening's entertainment. He was very agreeable, and as sociable
as if they had never quarreled.

After he had gone, Fred began to feel somewhat guilty, thinking he had
unjustly wronged him. He disliked to have trouble with any one, and from
the fact that they had not been very good friends of late, and that now
De Vere had made the first concessions, Fred felt disposed to use every
effort to be on good terms with him.

Matthew was quick to take note of this, and it suited his plans exactly.
At first he thought he would speak to Tom Martin about his despicable
purpose, and get his assistance. But he knew Dave Farrington would not
listen to it, for he had already shown a preference for Fred; so he
finally concluded to keep his own counsel, for should the facts at any
time become known, as they most probably would, then, if another boy
shared his secret, they would count heavily against him.

He lost no opportunity in making friends with Fred, and they now
appeared together so much that the other boys could not understand what
had brought about such a marked change. It was a matter of remark to the
girls as well, for they also knew something of Matthew's hostility to
our young hero.

"I am of the opinion that this sudden friendship is for a purpose that
Fred little suspects," said Dave Farrington, "for you know the
circumstances and remember what Matthew said to us before the party. My
idea is that he is the worst boy in the village, and that we have never
seen how mean he can be. Fred is a good fellow and is working hard to
get ahead, and I am sorry to see him fall in with De Vere. If it wasn't
meddling with the affairs of other folks, I would tell him to be on his
guard."

"It does seem queer," replied Tom, "that matters should have taken this
turn; but I guess nothing will come of it. I know Matthew always wants
his own way, though, and is bound to have it, and that is why his
actions seem so odd just now."

It had been Fred's custom to stay in the store nights until he got ready
to go home, but since he had been under the influence of Matthew he had
changed in this respect. Though he firmly intended to do nothing that he
would be ashamed of, or that would injure him in any way, yet he was in
dangerous company, and, like all others under similar circumstances, was
gradually being affected by it.

One night De Vere suggested, as they were passing a drinking saloon--the
very one where he had found Tim Short--that they should go in and have a
glass of ginger ale. Fred had some conscientious scruples about this,
but, lest he should offend his companion, he yielded, saying to himself:
"There is nothing intoxicating about it; I don't see any more harm in
it than drinking soda. Still I don't like the surroundings."

Having once visited that place of ruin, he hesitated less about going
the second time; so when he and Matthew again passed it (and the latter
purposely led him that way), Fred, feeling that he was under obligations
to his companion for his previous treat, invited him in. This time they
lingered a while to watch the billiard playing, and when a table was
unoccupied Matthew asked Fred to have a game with him, adding that he
would pay the expense.

Fred accepted the proposition and won the game, though he had never
played before, while Matthew had had a good deal of experience.

Billiards is a fascinating game, and, from the very fact of its
fascination, it is extremely dangerous for boys. It is usually
associated with drinking saloons, where the air is filled with evil
influences and the fumes of rum and tobacco; and, aside from these
degrading surroundings, it is a very expensive game. It is a very common
occurrence for one to find himself two or three dollars short for a
single evening's entertainment of this sort, and this, too, when no
drinking or betting has been done.

Fred, of course, felt elated that he should win the game with an old
player, while Matthew chuckled over his own success; for, in purposely
allowing his opponent to win, and thereby playing on his conceit, he
had scored more points in his own subtle game than he had hoped.

The obstacle that at first appeared to stand in the way of this young
scoundrel's accomplishing his purpose seemed to be well nigh surmounted.
He had carefully managed his victim, and would soon be paid for all his
trouble by the terrible revenge he would enjoy.

There now remained the final act, which he arranged with the bartender,
by paying him a certain sum.

It was agreed that De Vere should bring Fred in for a drink, and that
they would persuade him to take a glass of lager beer, that should
contain a large adulteration of whisky.

Tim Short was taken into the secret with a view to rendering any service
that might be required of him.

When the boys next appeared at the saloon, Matthew, with a pompous air,
said:

"John, give me a glass of lager; I have got sick of drinking ginger ale.
It's nothing but a baby drink, any way. Fred, you'd better try the
lager, too. It's ever so much nicer than that slop. Just try it now, and
if you don't like it you needn't drink it. See how clear it is! I guess
I can beat you at billiards after taking this."

The bartender laughed, and after indorsing all that De Vere had said,
added:

"Folks is got about over drinking ginger ale, nowadays. Lager's the
proper stuff!"

Fred was a good scholar, but there was a little word of two letters that
he had not yet learned how to spell; that is--_no_.

He drank the beer, and his fate was sealed. He was now a tool in
Matthew's hands. On some pretense the young hypocrite excused himself
from playing a game of billiards as he had at first proposed, and
induced Fred to follow him into the street, knowing it was not safe for
him to remain longer in the heated saloon.

It was his first intention to go back to the store, thinking that if Mr.
Rexford should see Fred in a tipsy state he would discharge him. But
just before reaching the merchant's place of business he stopped, and,
taking Fred by the arm, walked quickly up the street.

Tim followed close enough to answer promptly if Matthew should summon
him.

The liquor had already begun to have the desired effect. Fred had become
talkative and boisterous, and in such a condition that he could be
influenced to do almost any absurd thing.

Matthew was bound to make the most of his opportunities, and so he
incited him by flattering words to call at Dr. Dutton's house, opposite
which they now stood. Fred assented to this, provided Matthew would
accompany him. This De Vere readily agreed to do, and he led the
intoxicated youth up to the door, and rang the bell sharply.

Presently the door opened, and on stepping in Fred looked about for his
companion, but he was nowhere to be seen.



VII.


Tim Short made a very wretched attempt to obtain a night's sleep after
escaping from captivity, both because the night was well spent before he
reached home and because matters of too great importance rested upon his
mind to allow him to bury them in slumber.

He reported at the factory at the usual morning hour, but after working
a little time complained of being sick, and was released for the
remainder of the day. If he was not physically ill, he was doubtless
sick at heart, so he speedily sought Matthew, and told him, with more or
less ill feeling, of his experience at the hands of Jacob Simmons, and
of the latter's demands in settlement (as he called it) for his
injuries.

"And you 'squealed' on me?" demanded De Vere, with ill suppressed anger.

"I told him who you were, to save him from choking me to death."

"Is that all you said?"

"He told me to tell the truth or----"

"So you gave him the whole story--you idiot, to tell everything you
know!"

"I only wish you had been in my place."

"If I had I wouldn't have been an idiot!" retorted De Vere.

"Oh, you wouldn't have! Some folks are very smart," replied Tim, getting
angry.

"I'd have been smart enough for that."

"A lot you would. If he'd had you as he had me, you would have told more
than I did, and promised anything he asked."

"I'm not a baby, I want you to understand, to cry if any one looks at
me."

"No, you are very brave, to have to get some one to help you to get
square with Fred Worthington."

"I was a fool when I got you."

"And I was a fool for having anything to do with you in this business.
You will be arrested and sent to prison, and so will I, unless you pay
Mr. Simmons the five hundred."

"Arrested! What do you mean?" asked Matthew, turning pale.

"I mean just what I said; if you don't pay him he will come down on us
within three days."

"Did he say so?" gasped De Vere.

"Yes, he did. He was going to take me to the sheriff last night, and
that's why I told everything."

"Five hundred dollars! I can't get it without asking my father for it."

"Well, ask him then."

"He would find out everything, and would whip me almost to death."

"Better be whipped than go to prison, and have every one know all about
it."

"I won't do either."

"How can you avoid it?"

"Five hundred dollars is too much."

"You'd better see Mr. Simmons and fix it with him."

"I don't want to see him."

"You will have to see him or send the money."

The two boys finally called upon Jacob Simmons and entered into
negotiations.

"I ought to have more than five hundred," said the latter.

"How can I give it to you if I haven't got it?" asked Matthew.

"Your father is rich, and could give me ten times as much and not miss
it."

"Oh, don't tell him. I will pay you what I can."

"If you had the money I would take it and say nothing more to him or any
one; but I must have it or hand you over to the sheriff."

Matthew shuddered at this thought. He was in a dilemma, and hardly knew
which way to turn.

After a good deal of parley, Mr. Simmons agreed to take three hundred
dollars in place of the five originally demanded. This act, however, was
not inspired by liberality or a desire to make the penalty less for the
boys, but with a feeling that he might get nothing if he were to take
the matter to the elder De Vere, as he gathered from Matthew's
conversation that the latter would run away from home rather than submit
to the severe punishment his father would be sure to give him.

"Three hundred dollars," Jacob argued, "is much better than nothing."

Matthew gave him what cash he had with him--seventeen dollars--and his
watch, and signed an agreement to pay the balance within six weeks. He
also indorsed the statement that Tim had signed about the assault as
being true, and the careful Mr. Simmons replaced it in his large
pocketbook for future use if it should at any time be needed.



VIII.


When Fred found that he was in Dr. Dutton's house, and that Matthew had
disappeared and deserted him, he was at a loss to know what to say or
what move to make. His mind was far from clear, and his tongue so
unwieldy that he could hardly manage it.

He stood silent for a moment, evidently trying to collect his thoughts
and make out his situation; then, muttering some half intelligible
words, he made a start as if to leave the house.

The doctor, who answered the summons of the bell, was struck nearly dumb
by the sight that greeted his eyes. He closed the door, and, taking the
youth by the shoulder, supported his unsteady steps to the office.

The fumes of whisky readily indicated the cause of this unfortunate
occurrence, but the doctor was at a loss to know why Fred should be in
such a state. Was he not one of the most exemplary boys in town, and did
he not belong to the school, of which Dr. Dutton himself was
superintendent?

Surely something must be wrong, thought the doctor, and he began to
question the boy, who on going from the cool air to a warm room had
grown so suddenly sick that he looked as if he would faint.

The kind physician laid him gently on a lounge, and gave him such
professional treatment as the case demanded.

There is a vast difference between one who has become intoxicated by a
single glass and one who has been drinking for hours, and has thereby
paralyzed his nerves and deadened his brain. In the former case the
liquor can be thrown from the stomach, and the victim soon recovers the
powers of his mind; while in the other event it may take several days to
restore his customary vigor.

This sickness of Fred's was the very best thing that could have happened
to him, for he got rid of the vile poison before it had time to stupefy
him to any great extent. Nevertheless the dose was so strong and the
shock so great for his stomach that for a time he was extremely sick and
weak.

But after lying quietly on the lounge for an hour or so, he regained a
little strength.

The doctor ordered his carriage, helped Fred into it and took him home.
The latter was still so unnerved that he could hardly walk, but the cool
air benefited him so much that when he reached home he managed to get
into the house alone, and up to his room without disturbing his parents,
who had retired some time before.

The next morning he awoke with a severe headache, and seemed generally
out of tune.

The mere thought of what he had done--how he had disgraced himself by
going to a public bar, and there drinking to intoxication--caused him
the deepest sorrow and regret; but when he fully realized what a severe
wound his conduct would inflict upon his mother and father, and how they
would grieve over it--when he thought what the people of the town would
say, and remembered that he had actually called in this lamentable state
at Dr. Dutton's house--the place of all others he would have wished to
avoid--he became sick at heart as well as in body, and his tumultuous
feelings were only soothed by tears of honest repentance.

However, Fred hurriedly dressed himself, went to the store as usual, and
commenced his accustomed labors. He saw at once, by Mr. Rexford's
manner, that he did not know what had happened the previous night, and
this afforded him a slight temporary relief; still, he knew it was only
a question of time before his employer would learn the whole story.

When this took place, what would be the result? Would he lose his
situation? He knew that Mr. Rexford was a stern man, having little
charity for the faults of others. That his clerk should have been
intoxicated the previous night would undoubtedly irritate him greatly.

Fred imagined that every one whom he saw knew of what he had done, and
looked upon him with disgust. He felt tempted to leave the village, and
never be seen again where he had so disgraced himself. Could he only go
to some new place, among strangers, and commence life over again, he
might have a better chance to work his way upward; but here this shame
would always hang, like a dark cloud, above him.

On reflection, however, he saw that it would be both unmanly and
ungrateful to leave his parents.

No; he was the guilty party, and he must stay here, where the
unfortunate occurrence had taken place, and here try, by the strictest
discipline, and the most watchful care, to regain his former standing
among his friends.

As Fred thought over the occurrences of the past few weeks--of Matthew's
decided hostility, of his course at the party, and his sudden friendship
since that time--of his treachery and meanness the night before, in
getting him to call at Dr. Dutton's while intoxicated, and his deception
in so suddenly leaving him at the door--he saw clearly that he had been
made the victim of De Vere's mean and cruel malice.

Moreover, he did not believe that a single glass of beer would have
produced such an effect upon him, and so he strongly suspected the
truth--that he had been drugged.

Still, he decided to bear the blame himself, and not throw it upon
another, though there might be justice in such a course. He felt
confident that the truth would at some time come to light, if he said
nothing about it, whereas, should he bring forward his suspicion as an
excuse for getting tipsy, the charge would at once be denied, and then
he would be less liable to fix the guilt upon the young villain who had
made him the plaything of his ill will.

He knew, also, that he was to blame for having visited the iniquitous
den at all, and much more for allowing himself to be persuaded to
indulge even in what is popularly considered a harmless drink.

He was so absent minded during the day, and showed so clearly in his
face that something was troubling him, that keen eyed John Rexford
observed it, and wondered what had happened to check the flow of the
boy's spirits.

Rexford was a selfish man, and thought that possibly something
pertaining to the store had gone wrong. Such an idea was enough to
arouse his suspicion, for he was wholly wrapped up in his business. He
could not look beyond that, and had no feeling for others--only making
an occasional show of it for the sake of policy.

A man who lives in such a way is not half living. He is not broad,
intelligent, liberal, and sympathetic, but is narrowed down to a sordid,
grasping existence.

I often pity such men, for though they may have wealth in abundance,
they know not how to enjoy it. Neither do they possess the faculty of
deriving pleasure from kindness and generosity.

They can see no beauty in art or nature, and when they become unfit for
pursuing their vocation, they have nothing to look forward to. The life
beyond is something to which they have given little thought. They have
starved their nobler nature that is nourished on higher things, until it
is dwarfed and shriveled, and the baleful results of such an unnatural
mode of life are pictured in their countenances.

Fred's most trying ordeal during the day was that of going to Dr.
Dutton's house with goods; for if others did not know of what was on his
mind, surely the doctor's family did. He knew that he had forfeited the
good opinion they had had of him, and he wished to avoid meeting them.

To his surprise Mrs. Dutton greeted him pleasantly, and made no
reference whatever to the affair of the previous night. Her motherly
nature pitied him sincerely, for she saw plainly written in his face the
sorrow that he so keenly felt. Bless the dear soul for her kind,
sympathetic heart, and the cheerful, helpful look she gave the boy in
the hour of his trial!

This unexpected charity helped Fred not a little; but the conspicuous
absence of Miss Nellie, evidently due to a purpose of avoiding him, sent
a chill deep into his very heart, which was plainly reflected in his
face and exhibited in his demeanor. Fred's regard for her, I think we
may safely infer, was much stronger and of a finer type than the
ordinary preferences shown by boys of his age; therefore we can
understand why he was so deeply affected by her turning away from him as
if he were unfit to be her associate.

Matthew De Vere made the most of his opportunity. He felt that he was
being revenged now. He took great care to spread the report, and to
inform a certain one in particular of the facts concerning Fred. His
version of them was a highly colored one; but of course he made no
allusion to the adulteration of the liquor. He claimed that he induced
Fred to leave the bar room, and intimated that he must have drunk
several times before he saw him, "for," he said, "one glass of beer
could not have made him tipsy."

By afternoon, the report spread nearly through the town, for, as Milton
says:

 Evil news rides post, while good news baits.

Dave Farrington and Tom Martin called to see Fred and talk the matter
over with him. The latter did not breathe his suspicions of the real
cause of the occurrence, but simply told the facts. The boys quickly
replied that they considered it a trick of De Vere's, and that this was
the mean way he had taken to carry out his threat of "getting the
advantage of him."

This conversation confirmed Fred's opinion, and though he felt ashamed
of himself, and was bound to suffer for his foolish act, while the
guilty party went free, yet he reflected:

"I would rather be in my place than in Matthew's, for I shall learn by
this experience not to be influenced by another to do anything without
first counting the cost, and seeing whether it is right and best. If it
is not, I won't do it for anybody's friendship. This will also teach me
to keep away from suspicious places, and to avoid the temptations and
corrupting influences of a bar room. De Vere's guilt will work more
injury to him, in the long run, than my damaged reputation will to me."

Towards the close of the day Mr. Rexford heard of the previous night's
occurrence. He immediately called Fred into the counting room, and
sternly, and in an excited manner, questioned him as to the truth of the
report.

The latter acknowledged its correctness, and told his story, stating
that he drank but one glass of beer, and that that was his first, and
would also be his last.

The suspicious merchant was very angry, and disposed to doubt the boy's
statement. He said that it was a mystery to him where Fred got the money
to spend for such a purpose--intimating that perhaps it came from his
own cash drawer. Then, after giving him a sharp lecture, he hinted at
discharge, saying that he would have no drinking persons about him.

John Rexford well knew the value of such a boy as Fred, and had no real
intention of sending him adrift. But he wished to make the most of his
opportunity, and to impress the boy, and the public if possible, with
the idea that in keeping him he was doing a very magnanimous act.

So he said that he would overlook this fault, though a grave one, and
retain Fred for the present on probation; but he warned the boy that he
must keep a sharp lookout, as the first misdeed, or suspicious act on
his part, would result in immediate discharge.

The turn of affairs was anything but pleasant to Fred, though better
than he had expected. And it was far more satisfactory to him than the
previous suspense, when he had not known what his employer would decide
to do.

When the day's work was over, Fred went directly home, where he found
his father and mother seated before the open fire.

The latter was somewhat worried about her son, for he looked pale and
worn, and had eaten hardly anything since the night before; still she
knew nothing of the cause of this. His father had received some
intimation of what had happened, but had decided to say nothing to his
wife about it for the present.

Fred had no intention, however, of keeping his parents in ignorance of
his adventure; but taking his seat by the side of his mother, and where
he could look both parents in the face, he told them the whole story,
going minutely into all of the details.

He also told them of the conversation which had occurred between himself
and Rexford.

Both parents listened intently to this statement. The mother at first
sobbed bitterly, on hearing from the lips of her own child--on whom her
hopes and pride were centered--that he had been in such company and in
such a condition.

The father doubtless felt the disgrace quite as keenly, for he was a
sensitive, intelligent man and naturally feared that this was but the
beginning of a dissipated life. Still, he could hardly look for that
from a boy whom he had tried so hard to instruct in what is manly and
right, and who had always seemed to profit by his teaching.

But as Fred progressed in his narration, and showed how the lamentable
result had been brought about, and that he had been made a victim of De
Vere's revenge in consequence of the latter's jealousy, both parents
looked upon the whole matter in a very different light. Mr. Worthington
was extremely indignant, and expressed his determination to see De
Vere's father and demand redress for the despicable course Matthew had
taken. He also vowed that he would wage war against that bartender, and
drive him out of town.

Fred, however, urged his father not to do either, since he believed it
would only make a bad matter worse; adding that he had decided that it
would be better for him to say and do nothing about the affair, further
than to mention that Matthew was with him. He requested his father to
adopt the same course. Mrs. Worthington, too, thought this the better
plan, so after some persuasion her husband agreed to accept the
situation and wait for time to bring the truth to light.

The wisdom of such a course must be apparent to my readers when they
stop to think upon the matter, as did Fred. For, had he charged De Vere
with being the cause of his misfortune, and alleged that the bartender
had drugged him, both villains would instantly have denied it, and
would, doubtless, have thrown the lie upon young Worthington, thus
making him appear more at disadvantage than before. Besides, the
villagers would be disposed to believe them, as it is well known that
every one guilty of a misdemeanor is sure to give some excuse for his
action, though excuses usually have but little weight.

On the other hand, a secret becomes burdensome to one after a time. If
it is of a trivial nature, and the author finds he is not suspected, he
will finally tell it as a joke, contrasting his cunning with the
stupidity of his victim; while if it be of a graver sort, it will
finally be disclosed, if for no other reason than to unburden the mind.

While both of Fred's parents regretted most deeply what had happened,
they felt proud to think that he had told the whole truth, without even
waiting to be questioned upon the subject.

If all boys would follow Fred's example in this respect whenever they
get into any trouble, they would not only retain the confidence of their
parents, but would receive the rewards of a clear conscience and an
unburdened heart.



IX.


There is something rather peculiar about the fact that troubles of any
sort never seem to come singly. This has been noticed by almost every
person of wide experience, and the idea is crystallized in the proverb:
"It never rains but it pours." The adage certainly held true in Fred's
case.

Only a few days after the occurrence related in the preceding chapter,
and when Fred had begun to feel a little more at ease in his mind, he
was called up sharply one night by his employer, who said to him:

"Fred, what have you done with the twenty dollar bill that was in this
drawer?"

"I have seen no such bill there to-day, sir," replied the clerk.

"You have seen no such bill, do you say? I took a new twenty dollar bill
of James D. Atwood this afternoon, when he settled his account, and I
put it in this drawer," pointing to the open cash drawer before him.

"It seems queer, sir; but I am sure that I have not paid it out or seen
it. Didn't you give it to Woodman and Hardy's man when you paid him
some money to-day?"

"No!" replied the merchant nervously, "he was here early in the
afternoon, before I took the bill. There has been no one to the cash
drawer but you and myself--unless you neglected your business and
allowed some scoundrel in behind the counter while I was at tea."

Fred flushed up at this intimation that he might have been false to his
trust, and replied, with some show of injured feeling:

"Mr. Rexford, if any money has been lost, I am sorry for you; but as I
said, I know nothing about it. You say you took in a twenty dollar bill,
and that now it is gone. If a mistake has occurred in making change, I
don't know why it should be laid to me any more than yourself, for I am
as careful as I can be."

"Do you mean to say, young man, that I have made a mistake of this size
in making change?"

"I simply say, there must be a mistake somewhere. Have you figured up
your cash account to know just how it stands?"

Mr. Rexford had not figured it up, but on discovering that the bill was
missing, and noticing that there was little increase in the other money,
he jumped to the conclusion that the drawer was twenty dollars short.
But on carefully going over his cash and sales accounts, and reckoning
the money on hand, he found that there was just eighteen dollars
missing.

This discovery only added mystery to the already perplexing matter. It
certainly looked now as though some cunning method had been employed to
swindle him.

The merchant's brow contracted at the thought, and after a few moments
he said, in an excited and angry manner:

"Worthington, you know about that bill, and are trying to deceive me. I
can see no way but that you took it during my absence, and in trying to
cover up your act put two dollars in the drawer; but, young man, I'd
have you know that such tricks can't be played on me!"

The flush that had appeared upon Fred's face was now gone, and in its
stead appeared the paleness of anger. He stepped squarely up to his
accuser, and said, in a determined tone:

"Do you mean to say that I stole your money? If you mean that, sir, you
say what is false, and you shall----"

"No, no; I don't--er--er--I won't say that--but--but be calm and let me
see!"

"Do you withdraw your accusation, then?" demanded the youth, whose
manner was such that Rexford was glad, for the time being, to retract
his statement, or make any admission whatever, for he saw that in the
boy's eyes which warned him to adopt a more conciliatory policy and to
do it speedily.

He consequently retreated from his position, and assured Fred that he
had spoken too hastily in accusing him. He also moved cautiously
backward to another part of the store, doubtless feeling that the air
would circulate more freely between them if they were some distance
apart; then he added:

"But the bill is gone, and as I have not paid it out, I want it
accounted for."

"No doubt you do," said Fred. "I should like to know where it is myself.
As long as you put it on that ground I will not object, but you shall
not charge me squarely with committing a theft."

"No, I won't charge you directly with taking it, but I have my opinion
as to where it has gone," rejoined Rexford, with an insinuating air.

Fred knew well what that opinion was; but it was beyond his power to
challenge it while unexpressed, and he could not at that time change it
by proving his innocence, so he replied:

"Very well, you can think as you like, if that gives you any
satisfaction."

"Yes, yes; very good! But I will get my satisfaction, not in thinking,
but in acting! You were hired as my clerk, and it was your duty to work
for my interest, and look out for this store in my absence. As this bill
disappeared while under your charge, I shall hold you responsible for
it," said the merchant, as he rubbed his thin, bony hands together.

This made the color again change in Fred's face, which, being noticed by
Rexford, influenced him to move a few paces nearer to the door, as he
possibly thought it still a little warm for his comfort, while young
Worthington exclaimed:

"You will never get a cent of my money for this purpose! Now you just
remember that!"

"Not so fast, young man! You forget that I owe you about fifteen
dollars, and I'll keep that amount in partial payment for this loss.
Don't think you are going to get ahead of me quite so easy!"

"I'm not trying to get ahead of you, but I want my rights and what is
due me, and I will have both. I don't more than half believe there was a
twenty dollar bill here at all! It is one of your mean tricks to beat me
out of my money. It is not much more, sir, than I have seen you do by
customers--adulterating goods, giving short weight and measures,
and----"

"Stop there! you vil--er--insinuating rascal," yelled the proprietor, in
a rage, his limbs and features twitching nervously. "Do you mean to say
that I cheat my customers, and----"

"Yes, that is just what I mean," replied Fred firmly.

"I'll have you arrested at once. I won't be insulted by such a scamp!"

"Be careful whom you call a scamp!" said Fred, while Rexford again edged
off. "I'd like to have you arrest me, for then I could tell things about
you and your store that would make a stir in this village! What if some
of the folks find out that the XXX St. Louis brand of flour, for which
they pay you ten dollars a barrel, is a cheap grade that you bought in
plain barrels and stamped yourself? Now do you want to arrest me? If you
do there are many other things I can tell, and I wouldn't pass your
accounts by either. I know something of what has been going on
here--more than you think, perhaps."

These rapid and earnest utterances from young Worthington wrought a
complete change in the merchant. They alarmed him, for he saw that the
boy had the advantage, and out of policy he must stop matters before
they became any worse. So he said, in a humble and subdued tone:

"Fred, it's no use for us to quarrel about this. You know it is not
proper for you to go outside and tell your employer's business, and----"

"I know it is not, and I would only do so to defend myself; but when you
threaten to keep my money, and to have me arrested, then I will show
what kind of a man is trying to take advantage of me."

"Very well, then, if I pay you your money, you will say nothing about
the business of this store, I suppose?"

"No, I will say nothing about what I have just mentioned, unless I
should be put on trial; then, of course, I should be obliged to
testify."

"You will not be put on trial. I take you at your word--your word of
honor," added the merchant impressively.

"Yes, my word of honor!" repeated Fred, "and that means that your
secrets are safe."

The wily Rexford had now gained his point--Fred's promise--and he
quickly changed front and cried:

"Well, there's your money--fifteen dollars--now consider yourself
discharged from my employ!"

"'Discharged,' did you say, sir?" ejaculated Fred, utterly taken aback
at this sudden turn of events.

"I said 'discharged,'" repeated the merchant, fidgeting about; "you know
what the word means, I presume?"

Fred did know what it meant. It meant more than Rexford's narrow spirit
could even comprehend. It meant disgrace, perhaps ruin.

Fred took the money, the few bills, the last he would earn in the old
store, and stood for a moment turning them over listlessly--evidently
not counting them, but as if to aid him in solving the problem that
rested heavily upon his mind.



X


"Isn't the money all right?" asked the merchant, finally.

"Mr. Rexford," said Fred, not noticing the inquiry, "I want you to tell
me if I lost my place on account of that missing bill."

"That is exactly why," replied the merchant, "for I have always been
satisfied with your work. Had you never got into that drunken scrape,
though, I probably should not have thought so much of it, even if I
could see no way in which to account for the mystery."

Fred felt it a cruel injustice that he should be discharged and
disgraced simply on the suspicion of a crime of which he was, in fact,
entirely innocent: still he could see that the merchant had some grounds
for his distrust, for when a boy once gets a stain upon his character it
is almost impossible to utterly efface it. It may be forgotten for a
time, but if any untoward circumstance afterward arises, the remembrance
of the old misdeed comes speedily to the surface and combines with later
developments to work injury to him. Thus my readers can see the great
importance of always doing what is right, thereby keeping their
reputations unsullied.

Had Fred not fallen a victim to De Vere's revengeful plot, he would have
been saved the shame that caused him so much misery; he would have
retained the good opinion of the people of Mapleton; he would not have
forfeited a certain very desirable friendship; and he would, in all
probability, have held his position with Mr. Rexford, regardless of the
mysterious disappearance of the bill.

Our young friend left the store where he had worked hard and faithfully,
and where he was gaining an insight into a business, the knowledge of
which, he hoped, would some day enable him to become an active and
prosperous merchant. But now, alas! he had been discharged and sent away
in disgrace.

Fred started for home with a more sorrowful heart than he had ever known
before. His last chance of success seemed, for a time, to be gone. The
villagers would now lose all faith in him, he would have no friends, and
even his father and mother might doubt his honesty. It would be useless
for him to try for a situation in another store, when it became known
why he was discharged from John Rexford's.

It was not surprising that young Worthington was so cast down, while the
shock was fresh upon him, for there seemed now to be no way by which he
could build himself up. But in this country there is always a chance for
an honest, ambitious, and determined boy to succeed by careful thought,
patient endurance, and hard work. Sometimes, to be sure, one can see
very little ahead to encourage him to push on and hope to come out
victorious. This is the very point at which many fail. They cannot stand
up "under fire," but fall back when by sufficient will force they might
win a decisive victory in the battle of life.

When Fred reached home, wearing a most dejected look, Mrs. Worthington
exclaimed:

"Why, my son, what brings you home so early? I hope you are not ill!"

"No, I'm well enough, mother, but I'm tired of trying to amount to
anything."

"What has happened now?" exclaimed the mother, with an alarmed
expression on her face.

"I have been discharged by Mr. Rexford, on suspicion of having stolen
money from the store."

"Stolen money!" uttered both parents simultaneously, as they grew pale
at the terrible thought.

"Yes, that is what I am charged with, though I know nothing about the
missing money. That is what makes it so hard to bear."

"Tell me the particulars," said the anxious father; whereupon his son
related all that had taken place between himself and the merchant--all
save that which related to Rexford's sharp practices, of which he had
promised to say nothing.

After the story was finished, all were silent for a time. Both mother
and boy looked heart sick, and gazed wistfully into the blaze that
burned brightly in the open grate, as if they might discover there the
secret of the mystery, while the father sat with knitted brows, studying
carefully the statements which Fred had made.

At length he broke the silence, and said:

"My son, you have never deceived me. You came to your mother and me with
true manhood, and told us of your first disgrace, while many boys would
have tried hard to keep it from their parents. Though I never had reason
to suspect you of wrong doing, yet that voluntary act upon your part
proved to me that you had the courage to do right and own the truth. Now
something has taken place that seems worse than the other; but as you
say you are innocent, I believe it, and think that some great mistake
has been made. I don't know where it can be, but we must try to clear it
up."

Though these were welcome words to Fred, he was much cast down
notwithstanding.

"But, father," he replied, "the people will all believe me guilty when
they see I am out of the store, and learn the circumstances."

"It is far better for you, my boy, that they should suppose you guilty,
when you are conscious of your innocence, than that the whole world
should believe you innocent, if you were really guilty."

"Well, I don't see how we can show that I did not take the money."

"Neither do I, at present; but time will straighten this matter, as it
does almost everything. Don't expect that we can accomplish much while
we are sitting here and talking about it."

"What shall we do, then, father?"

"Wait until we can see how to proceed."

"Well, I don't see any way; and, besides, I am about discouraged, now
this is added to the other disgrace; and to think that I am not
responsible for either!" exclaimed Fred, with deep emotion.

"I think you were responsible, to a certain extent, for the first," said
his father.

"How was I responsible when De Vere led me into it, and had my drink
adulterated?"

"You were to be blamed for going to the bar at all. You should not have
been influenced by such a fellow as that scamp."

"Yes, I know I didn't do right in that respect, but I had no reason to
suppose that such a result would follow."

"One hardly ever does when he is being led on to do some wrong act by a
crafty villain."

"Matthew probably would have had his revenge in some other way, if he
had not succeeded in his first trial."

"Very true; but had it been in some other form, it might have been shown
that he was the guilty party; whereas now it would seem that you were
the author of your own misfortune, while the real agent of the
occurrence goes unsuspected, and exults in your downfall."

"I thought he wanted to be friends with me, so I tried not to displease
him."

"Well, I hope that affair will be a valuable lesson to you. It has
certainly proved itself a costly one. You should learn to look at the
motives of people, and not trust them too far, simply because they smile
upon you once and seem friendly. I don't think that your judgment was
very keen, or you would have seen through De Vere's sudden change of
manner when you had reason to suppose he would maintain a more hostile
attitude than ever."

"Don't be too hard upon him, Samuel," interrupted Mrs. Worthington, who
saw that Fred was growing restive under his father's rebukes.

"I am not trying to be hard upon him," replied her husband, "but simply
wish to bring this matter before him in a way that will enable him to
make the most of this experience. I want to teach him to avoid such
errors in the future; for this is an almost fatal mistake in his case,
which will follow him for years, and will, so far as I can see, change
his whole life's career."

"Why, how is that, father?" inquired Fred, in a half frightened voice.

"It is simply this: your mother and I always intended that you should
become a merchant. We instilled that idea into you from a child, and as
you grew older, to our satisfaction you showed a decided taste for such
a life. At last I got you a place in a store where I thought you could
build yourself up, and, in course of time, go into business for
yourself. You showed an aptitude for the work, and Mr. Rexford assured
me that you were one of the very best clerks that ever worked for him.
This, however, was before he was led to suspect you because of the De
Vere affair. Now you have been discharged by him on the suspicion of
having stolen money from his drawer. Under these circumstances, no one
in town would take you into his store as clerk; so you may as well give
up, first as last, the idea of becoming a trader."

"Couldn't I get a place in Boston, or somewhere else?"

"I think not; and if you could, I should not be willing to have you go
away from home."

"Why not, father? Wouldn't it be better than for me to stay here, where
I can get nothing to do?"

"No, my son; you are too young to go away from home, where you would
have no one to look after you, and where you would be subject to many
evil influences."

"Here every one will think I am a thief, and probably my friends will
not speak to me," added Fred, in a more sorrowful tone than ever.

"So much the more reason why you should remain here. Were you to go away
now, the people would surely think you guilty. No, no, my son! You must
stay here, where circumstances have conspired against you, and show by
your life that you are innocent. Then, too, by living here, you can
gather evidence that may be of value to you."

"Where can I get any evidence?"

"You can give it, if you can't get it," replied his father, "by going to
work tomorrow morning, and thus showing your good intentions."

"There is nothing to do in this dull town that I know of."

"There is always something to be done. But work won't come to you; you
must look it up. The important thing with you now is to find something
to do; for nothing so injures a boy or man in the sight of others as
loafing."

"Can't I be with you in the shop, father?"

"No, I don't want you to learn a shoemaker's trade. If I had been in
some other business, I might, perhaps, have been rich now. Shoemaking
doesn't afford one much chance to rise, however hard he works. You will
have to give up the idea of being a merchant, for the present, at least,
and perhaps forever; so I want you to engage in something where your
opportunities for advancement will not be limited as mine have been. No
matter if you have to commence at the very bottom of the ladder; you can
build yourself up by hard and intelligent work."

Fred now began to brighten up a little, and after some further
conversation with his father and mother, in which they tried to
encourage him as much as possible, he said:

"Father, you know I have always had an ambition to be somebody. When I
saw that De Vere was trying to turn my friends against me, because I was
a poor man's son, I made up my mind that I would push ahead harder than
ever; but now"--he spoke with a good deal of determination and force for
a boy--"I will succeed if I have to work day and night to accomplish
it."



XI.


The village of Mapleton had but three manufacturing industries: a lumber
mill, where logs were sawed up into various dimensions; a box shop, in
which were made wooden boxes of many different sizes and shapes; and a
large woolen factory. After leaving home, Fred went directly to the
agent of the lumber mill and tried to get a chance to work for him, but
in this he was unsuccessful. At the box shop he likewise received no
encouragement, for there they needed no help. So there was but one more
place left to try--that was the woolen factory, where he might still
find a vacancy.

The idea of becoming a factory hand, after having been behind the
counter as clerk, was repulsive to him; still he must do something;
anything was better than idleness. Consequently he went to the mill, and
climbed four long flights of stairs, which took him to the top of the
building. Here he opened a large, heavy iron door, and entered the
spinning room, down which he passed until he came to the overseer's
desk.

The latter--a large, gruff, red faced man--was not there at the time,
but on spying Fred he hurriedly came forward and demanded to know the
boy's business. On being informed that employment was wanted, he said he
needed no help, and indicated by his manner that he wished to be
bothered no further.

Young Worthington now dropped down a flight and tried to get work in the
card room, but with no success. On the next floor below was the weaving
room, and here he soon learned that the overseer considered that he
could get along very successfully without his help.

But two more departments--the finishing and the dyeing rooms--remained
to be visited, and then the ordeal would be over.

As the boy descended the stairs to the former, he had very little hope
of accomplishing his purpose, for thus far he had received no
encouragement whatever.

Fred knew the gentleman in charge of the department perfectly well, for
he was his Sunday school teacher, and moreover, was the father of his
friend Dave; nevertheless he passed down the long hall with many a
misgiving, and approaching the overseer timidly, said:

"Good morning, Mr. Farrington."

"Good morning, Fred," said the latter cordially. "What brings you here
this morning?"

"I came in, sir," replied Fred, with an evident sense of humiliation,
"to see if you could give me work in your department."

"Why, you can't mean it! You have not left the store, I hope?"

"Yes, I do mean that I want a job, and I am sorry to say I got through
in the store last night."

"You surprise me! What could have been the trouble?"

Fred knew he was now talking to a large hearted, sympathetic man, and
one who had always seemed to take a keen interest in his welfare, so he
related the entire incident.

Mr. Farrington watched him closely as he recited what had taken place at
the store, and then the kind hearted man expressed, both by words and
manner, his regret that matters should have taken such a turn. "My boy,
don't look so discouraged," he said. "I will do what I can to help you.
Mr. Rexford should not have judged you so hastily; from what you tell
me, I can't see that he has any good proof that you are guilty."

"I am certain that I am not guilty, but how can I prove my innocence?"

"Ah, that may be difficult, as it is a mysterious affair. But I believe
you have told me the truth, and I shall do all I can to help you in
every way."

Our young friend brightened up somewhat at this cheering statement, and
with a grateful look, replied:

"You know, Mr. Farrington, I just told you why he so readily suspected
me, and he has had no faith in me ever since that time."

"That was an unfortunate occurrence, to be sure, but from what Dave
says, I think if the whole truth were known you would be blamed less."

"I am glad you know something of the facts of that affair, and have some
charity for me; before coming in here, I began to think that every one
had turned against me, and I hardly had courage to ask you for a place,
they treated me so in all the upper rooms."

"Did you go up there to try to get work?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't you come to me first?"

"I hardly know, only I didn't feel like asking you for favors under the
circumstances, for I couldn't tell what you would think of me since
being discharged by Mr. Rexford."

"Well, that is human nature, I suppose, for I have often noticed that
when one gets into trouble, instead of going to his friends for advice
and assistance, he will seek the aid of those who care nothing for his
welfare. I am glad, however, that you did not get work in the other
rooms, for then you would not have come to me, and I should not have
heard your version of this matter. Moreover, I suspect the feeling that
kept you away from me this morning would have influenced you to leave my
class at the Sunday school. But now you won't do that, will you?"

"No, I will not. Father and mother would not allow me to, any way."

"You are fortunate in having such parents; but as to coming here to
work, I want to see you get something better. You are too smart and
ambitious a boy to come into a factory, for such labor, as a rule, makes
one stupid and unfits him for anything else."

"I would like something better," replied Fred more cheerfully. "I
couldn't bear the thought of always being a common mill hand; still I
should be very glad to get even this for a while, rather than lie idle.
Isn't there a chance to work up, the same way that you did?"

"Yes, there is a chance, but it is a small one; for I should say that
from the great number who enter a factory, not one out of ten thousand
ever gets as high as an overseer. Still, you are right in wanting to get
to work, and you had better be here than on the street corners; but
instead of taking up with this, can't it be shown what became of the
missing money? If so, perhaps I can influence Mr. Rexford to take you
back. Or, if I couldn't, yet by your showing yourself innocent of his
charge you would then be in a fair way of getting a position in some
other store, for you were popular with customers, I understand."

"I don't know of any way to account for the missing bill. I never saw it
at all."

"You never saw it, and you say there were just eighteen dollars
missing?"

"Yes, sir."

Mr. Farrington mused thoughtfully a moment, then muttered to himself,
yet audibly: "Eighteen dollars missing!"

Presently he said aloud: "I will think this matter over, and see what I
can do for you. Come and see me tomorrow forenoon."



XII.


John Rexford cared very little for the interests of others. His humanity
was dwarfed and his regard for Fred's feelings or reputation amounted to
nothing. In fact, he cherished malice against the boy for getting the
better of him in the matter of his dealings with his customers.

That our young friend should have found out so much about his business
methods, and should dare to hold the threat of exposure over his head,
rankled in the breast of J. Rexford, Esq. With something of a spirit of
revenge he took good care to let his suspicions become generally known
regarding his former clerk, knowing, as he must, that the injury to him
would be almost irreparable.

In consequence of the merchant's free expression of opinion, by noon
nearly all of the villagers knew of Fred's discharge and his
dishonesty--or rather what they supposed and were willing to accept as
his dishonesty.

They further coupled this episode with the bar room occurrence, and at
once decided that Worthington was a dissipated young scamp, and
whatever good opinions they might have held of him before were
straightway forgotten.

Thus was Fred rated by the people of Mapleton, many of whom he met on
coming from the mill. As he passed up the street towards his home some
of them spoke to him in a strained, unnatural manner, others looked at
him in a knowing way, and a few small boys crowded about him, as though
he was on exhibition.

Here and there, also, curious feminine heads appeared at the windows,
and though Fred walked with his eyes apparently fixed upon the ground,
they were turned upward sufficiently to catch glimpses of certain well
known forms, and he believed himself the subject of their thoughts and
conversation.

Once he raised his head as if by an irresistible impulse, for he was
then passing the residence of Dr. Dutton. Why he did so he could not
satisfy himself, for he half expected to see Miss Nellie at the window,
and he dreaded meeting her eyes; yet there was a strange fascination
about the house, and with this sense of dread, strong as it was, he was
conscious of a much stronger desire to look on her sweet face, hoping
that her eyes might show at least a kindly feeling towards him, if
nothing more. But instead of Nellie he saw her mother, who seemed
looking directly at him.

"She must have heard everything from the new clerk," thought Fred, and
he fancied that in his single hasty glance he saw a look of mingled
sympathy and sorrow.

He knew her for a noble, tender hearted woman, one who had shown him
many a kindness, and who possessed such delicacy of feeling that she had
never referred in his presence to that wretched night when he called
there in a state of intoxication.

When our young friend reached home, he was despondent, as you may
imagine. He threw himself upon the lounge, and thought over the
occurrences of the morning--of his unsuccessful attempt to get work, and
of the general attitude of the people--and it seemed to his young and
sensitive mind that he could not bear their unjust suspicions.

Then he remembered the kindness of Mr. Farrington, who had promised to
assist him in trying to clear his reputation, and expressed a desire to
aid him in other ways. The thought made him sincerely thankful that he
had been one of Mr. Farrington's scholars in Sunday school, and had
thereby gained the friendship of such a man. To have a friend like him
at this time was worth everything, for Mr. Farrington was a prominent
man and had great influence throughout the village.

Our young friend remained at home the rest of the day. In the evening
his friend Dave called.

"Tell me how it all happened, Fred," said he, taking him by the hand
with a friendly grasp.

"I suppose you have heard the whole story long before this."

"Yes, but I want to hear your side, and then I shall know the truth."

"Thank you, Dave, for your confidence in me. I only wish others had half
as much. Yes, I am through at the old store that I thought so much of."

"But is it possible you were discharged, as I heard at school?"

"Yes, I was discharged," replied Fred sorrowfully. "I tell you, Dave,"
he continued, "it is pretty hard to be discharged on an unjust
suspicion, and to be looked upon in the village as I am tonight."

"It's too bad! I'm sorry for you, Fred, and I think De Vere is the cause
of the whole trouble."

"I don't see how he could have been at the bottom of what came up
yesterday between Mr. Rexford and me."

"Well, I believe, from what he said, that he was the means of your first
trouble, and I can't see why you won't charge him with it, and not let
every one think he is so nice and that you are guilty."

"What has he said?" asked Fred eagerly, thinking perhaps Matthew had
exultingly told the boys his trick.

"He told Tom Martin that he was glad you showed up as you did, for it
gave the people a chance to see what kind of a fellow you were."

"Was that all he said?"

"No; Tom said to him that he supposed he and you were great friends, as
he had seen you together so much. De Vere replied that he knew what he
was about, and had gained his point. That's all I heard. Isn't that
enough?"

"Oh, that doesn't count for anything!" replied Fred, turning the matter
off. "But tell me," he continued, "what was said at school about me. You
said you heard the report there."

"Do you really want me to tell you?"

"Yes; I am not expecting anything complimentary, and may as well know
the worst."

Dave Farrington hesitated a moment, unwilling to repeat the unkind words
of Fred's former schoolmates.

"The worst came from De Vere," he said at length.

Fred's face colored.

"I expected this," he replied; "but what did he say?"

"When I got to the school house for the afternoon session, De Vere was
there, and knowing that I always stood up for you, he cried out in a
sneering way:

"'Well, Farrington, what have you to say for your friend Worthington
now? I suppose, of course, you know what he has done, and that John
Rexford discharged him last night?'

"I said, 'Yes, I know about his discharge, but I don't know that he has
done anything to deserve it.'

"'He stole some money from the drawer,' he returned.

"'How do you know that?' I asked.

"'Why, everybody says so! I always said that you would get enough of
him,' he replied.

"'That is no proof, and, besides, I want you to know I haven't enough of
him yet,' said I. 'I have not been friends with him for the same reason
that you were, nor do I propose to leave him under such circumstances.'
I guess that must have hit him pretty hard, for he colored up as red as
could be and acted mad."

Fred found it difficult to restrain his anger as he saw the bitter
enmity of De Vere, and realized his gratification over his own
misfortune--a misfortune of which Matthew was the cause. But he finally
asked what the other scholars had to say about him.

"Well, they all talked about the matter, and most of them seemed to
think that you were guilty, though Grace Bernard said she heard her
father say that there might have been some mistake about the bill, and
that she didn't believe you stole it, for you were always one of the
best boys in school."

"That's better than I expected," replied Fred, with a brighter look.
"But is that all?" he asked, with some anxiety.

Dave noticed this, and suspecting his meaning, hesitated. "I guess it is
about all," he answered.

Fred seemed disappointed at not getting the answer he sought. Seeing he
was not likely to get at what interested him most--Miss Nellie's
opinion--he asked openly if she were not there, and what she said.

"I don't remember exactly what she said," replied Dave, "but she seemed
to side with Matthew. You know they are pretty intimate now; he seems to
have better success there than when you went to school. I tell you what
it is, Fred, if you hadn't got tipsy, he wouldn't have had much show,
but that's what killed you. The girls all said more about that than they
did about this."

Fred had his answer now, and it was anything but welcome intelligence to
him. There is no denying that he cared more for Nellie's good opinion
than for what all the rest of the school thought of him.

"She has condemned me at once," he said to himself bitterly, "while
Grace Bernard has proved my friend; and she has not only condemned me
without reason, but has taken up with my enemy--with that scoundrel De
Vere, who has been the cause of all my trouble."



XIII.


Fred was keenly affected by the spirit Nellie had shown concerning him.
That she had no faith in him, and cared nothing for his downfall, seemed
evident, while the thought that she had gone over to De Vere and joined
with him in his utterances galled our hero sorely.

Then, too, the fact that Matthew and Nellie had been so much together
during the last few weeks stirred Fred's jealousy and indignation, as
will be seen in the following letter, which he wrote and mailed that
evening:

     MAPLETON, Nov. 26.

     MISS NELLIE DUTTON:--I understand that there is a report
     circulating in the school that I am guilty of dishonesty, and
     that you seem quite ready to accept it. I am not surprised
     that gossips should tell such a story, but I did not expect
     you to be one of the first to put faith in it and condemn me.
     You have known me intimately since we were little children,
     and, I am sure, you have no true reason for believing this
     wicked slander. Grace Bernard stood by me, I hear, while you
     did not. I suppose you are no longer my friend, since you
     find so much pleasure in the society of such a fellow as
     Matthew De Vere, who is, as you know, my enemy. You probably
     got your idea of my conduct from him, as I understand he was
     very much elated over my misfortune. This matter will all be
     shown up in time, and when it is I shall have the
     satisfaction of seeing you regret your present intimacy with
     one who has no honor. Perhaps you may then be sorry for the
     treatment you are now showing me. Since that wretched night
     when I was led to your house by a certain person you have
     turned against me and avoided me. Had you not done so, I
     could have explained to you in confidence what I have
     preferred to keep secret. But since you judge me so hastily,
     and seem so happy in the presence of De Vere, I will not
     trouble you with my side of the story. FRED WORTHINGTON.

During the day Mr. Farrington gave a great deal of careful thought to
the mystery that now enveloped his young friend, and in the morning he
called upon Mr. Rexford, to see if he could learn anything that would be
to Fred's advantage. After chatting awhile with the merchant, he said,
as if he were entirely ignorant of what had taken place:

"Where is Fred?"

"He is not here."

"Out delivering goods?"

"No; he is through here. I discharged him."

"Discharged him!" returned Mr. Farrington, with seeming surprise.

"Yes; I don't want him any longer."

"I thought he was an excellent clerk."

"Yes, he was, in some respects; but I suspected him of dishonesty, and
so let him go."

In the conversation that followed, the trader confirmed the statements
of Fred in every particular. It was a good bit of tact on the part of
Mr. Farrington to draw Rexford out as he did, for not only did it prove
that Fred had told the truth, but the merchant's manner gave him some
ideas which he thought would prove valuable in solving the money
mystery.

When Fred called at the mill to see Mr. Farrington at the time
appointed, the latter greeted him cheerfully.

"Good morning, my boy; I see you are on time," looking at his handsome
gold watch.

"Yes, I believe so; I always try to keep my appointments."

"That is in your favor."

"Thank you, Mr. Farrington. I hope it is. But have you seen Mr.
Rexford?"

"Yes, I just came from there."

"Did you learn anything new?" asked Fred, with breathless interest.

"No; not exactly new."

"I suppose you went over the matter with Mr. Rexford?"

"Yes, he told the story practically as you gave it, but during our
conversation I gathered a few points that may be of service to us."

"What is your theory, Mr. Farrington?"

"As it is little more than a suspicion at best, I think it would be
wiser to keep it to myself at present."

"But if I knew it couldn't I help you?"

"No, I think not, and it might even make matters worse. The only way to
work up this affair is to do it quietly. If others find out what is
going on, perhaps we shall never be able to locate the money. Besides,
it wouldn't do for it to get out that I am working up your case."

"But I would say nothing about it," put in Fred, whose curiosity and
interest were both excited as he thought that perhaps Mr. Farrington had
the secret that would free him from suspicion and prove his honesty.

"I don't doubt that in the least; but for good reasons of my own I will
say nothing of my theory until I test it thoroughly, though it may take
a long time. If it should prove to be the true solution of the mystery,
I will then tell you all about it."

Fred colored a little at this, for he had grown somewhat sensitive now,
and said earnestly:

"I hope, Mr. Farrington, you too don't suspect me. It almost seems----"

"Oh, no, my boy," interrupted his good friend, "don't worry about that.
My suspicions run in a totally different direction."

"I am very glad to hear you say so, for I didn't know but Mr. Rexford
had convinced you that I took the bill."

"No, indeed; I believe you are innocent, and I shall do all I can to aid
you."

"You are very kind to me, and I thank you sincerely."

"I am glad to help you, Fred. It is my duty to do all the good I can."

"And you are always helping some one," replied Fred gratefully. "Now
that I can do nothing to clear up this mystery, I would like to get to
work. Can you give me anything to do?" he continued.

"Yes; I have arranged a place for you temporarily down stairs on the
'flockers.' You said yesterday that you would like factory work better
than nothing. This is about the meanest job in the whole mill, but it is
the only thing that I can possibly give you."

"All right; I guess I can stand it for a while," returned Fred.

"Then you may try it and see how you get along. I will advance you as
soon as there is a vacancy--if I find that you deserve it," he added,
with a significant smile.

"Very well, sir; I shall try to satisfy you. When shall I commence?"

"You may come in tomorrow morning at the regular hour--six o'clock. I
will discharge Tim Short tonight."

"Oh, you are not going to send him away simply to give me a place, are
you?" inquired Fred, with evident regret.

"No; I should never discharge one for such a cause, even if I wanted the
place for my own brother. I have been looking around for several days,
trying to find a boy, as I had made up my mind to get rid of Tim, who
isn't faithful in his work."

"I am sorry to have him discharged; I would rather go without work
myself than to feel I have his place. His parents will be obliged to
support him, and they are very poor."

"I like to hear you talk that way, for it shows that you have a kind
heart. I, too, am sorry for them, but it will not do to let sympathy
interfere with the proper management of business. Such a course would
not be just to my employers, for I am convinced that Tim causes more
mischief than a little, every day."

"Then if you are bound to discharge him any way, there would be nothing
wrong in my taking the place, would there?"

"Certainly not. Some one else will have it if you don't."

Mr. Farrington's assurance that there would be nothing dishonorable in
the proposed course seemed to satisfy Fred's compunctions to some
extent; still, as he entered the mill the next morning at the call of
the shrill whistle, long before daylight, he could not help feeling a
little guilty. He also felt that he was entering upon a new career, and
one that seemed anything but pleasing. An utter change had taken place
in his life. He was now only a common factory hand, and was about to
begin work as such.

The "flockers" were located under the stairs, down in the basement of
the mill, in a dark and dingy corner. When Fred arrived there, he saw
standing beside one of the machines a medium sized man with small gray
eyes, that were shaded with immense bushy brows nearly an inch in
length. His features were dull and expressionless, and over the lower
portion of his wrinkled face a scraggy, mud colored beard seemed
struggling for existence. His clothing appeared to indicate a penurious,
grasping nature.

A single look at this uncouth specimen was sufficient to make our young
friend shudder at the thought of being under his control; however, he
walked straight up to him, and said:

"Is this Mr. Hanks?"

"That's my name--Christopher Hanks. Be you the new boy?"

"Yes, sir."

"What's yer name?"

"My name is Fred Worthington."

"Fred Worthington, d'ye say?"

"Yes, sir."

"I s'pose yer father's the cobbler?"

"He has a shoe shop, sir."

"Be you the chap I heerd them men speakin' of as stole some money?" said
Hanks, with a fiendish grin, which revealed two upper front teeth that
seemed long because they alone guarded that portion of his mouth. They
had been in use so many years, or had been so poorly treated, that they
were loose, and rattled together.

"Perhaps they referred to me, sir," retorted Fred with dignity, "but
they had no right to accuse me of stealing."

"Yis, yis; that's how such allers talks. But I guess thar ain't nothin'
here fer yer to git yer hands on to, 'ceptin' work--I'll see't yer ain't
sufferin' fer that."

"Very well, sir; I came here to work."

"I s'pose ye're perty strong, ain't yer?"

"I'm strong enough for a boy."

"Glad yer are, fer yer can do the liftin' work an' help Carl there. He
ain't good for much, any way. Tim Short used ter shirk on him 'ceptin'
when I knowed it, an'---- Hey! here she goes!" (as the machinery
suddenly started). "Set this 'ere flocker again, Carl, and then show
this feller how to run t'other. I'll start up the grinder, an' go up to
the drier."

Accordingly Christopher Hanks departed, while Fred put on a gingham
frock which his mother had made him as a working blouse, and, at the
hands of Carl, received his first lesson.



XIV.


A "flocker" is a large, clumsy looking wooden machine, four or five feet
in length, and just wide enough to take on the cloth, which at that mill
was all made double width. It consists chiefly of heavy rollers, so
arranged that the cloth passes between them. There is a deep pit at the
bottom of the machine, which will hold several bushels of "flocks," in
addition to the bulk of a large web of cloth, from forty to fifty yards
in length.

"Your name is Carl, I believe," said Fred, by way of introducing
himself.

"Yes, Carl; that's it."

"My name is Fred Worthington. I think we shall get along together."

"I hope so," returned Carl sincerely, and continued: "The first thing to
do is to put the cloth into the machine and set it running."

Then, showing how to do this, he added:

"Now we start it up by switching this belt so" (moving the belt from the
loose to the stationary pulley).

"What's the object in running cloth through here?" inquired Fred; for
though he had always lived in Mapleton, yet in truth his knowledge of a
woolen factory was very limited, and in this respect he did not differ
much from the majority of the villagers.

"It is to make it weigh more, and to give it a body, so it can be
finished," replied the boy, while he turned a basketful of flocks upon
the revolving rollers between which the beaver cloth was now swiftly
passing.

"But why do you call that stuff 'flocks'?" inquired Fred. "It looks like
the fine dust that we find at the end of our pants and coats, where it
settles down against the hems."

"Well, that's just what it is."

"I thought everybody called that shoddy."

"I know they do, and I used to do so myself before I came here."

"But what are the 'flocks' that we have here made of?"

"Old rags."

"I thought shoddy was made from old rags."

"They are both made from them. The best ones are put into shoddy, and
the odds and ends into flocks."

"Well, if this stuff is flocks, how is shoddy made, and what does it
look like?"

"It is something like wool. The rags are fed into a 'picker' up in the
'pick room,' and come out all torn apart."

"What is it used for then?"

"It is mixed with a little coarse wool, and carded into rope yarn, the
same as wool, ready to be spun."

"The idea of weaving shoddy into cloth is new to me. It can't make very
good cloth."

"Well, they only use it for the back of the cloth. Here, look at this
piece! See; it is white on one side and brown on the other. The white
side is the face, and is made from good wool. You see we are beating
these flocks in on the back side."

"Yes, I see you are; and now as you've told me about shoddy, I'd like to
know about flocks, for that's what I have got to handle, I suppose."

"I guess you'll know all you want to about them before you've been here
long. I'm 'bout dead from being in this dust so much. It fills a feller
all up. See how thick it is now, and you're drawing it in with every
breath."

By this time the other machine was ready for action, and Carl, finding
that they were short of flocks, gave Fred a basket, took another
himself, and both boys started for a fresh supply. They went up stairs,
passed through the "gig room," and across a long hall which opened into
a little room by itself, where the rag grinders were humming away. This
was their destination. Carl filled one of the baskets with flocks and
the other with ground rags; then turning to Fred, said:

"You wanted to know about flocks and how they are made. This is the
first machine they go through. You see that pile of rags and odds and
ends. When they have been run through here, they will come out cut up
fine, like those I just put in your basket. Now we will go back, and I
will show you the next process they go through."

Each of the boys now shouldered his basket and returned down the stairs.
There Carl turned his flocks upon the cloth that was rapidly being
filled, and then emptied the contents of the other basket into a tub or
tank, which was about five feet wide by fifteen long. It was full of
thick, muddy looking water, which was rapidly going round the tank.

It struck Fred as a curious proceeding when he saw the fine cut rags
thrown into that place; it looked to him very much like throwing them
away, and he was about to ask an explanation when Carl satisfied his
curiosity by saying:

"This is the wet grinder. We put the rags in here, and run them in water
about three hours until they are ground up as fine as can be, and look
just like porridge."

"What do you do with the porridge?"

"Do you see these little bags at this end of the tank? We bail it out
into them, and after the water strains out a little, we tie them up and
load them on one of these cars and run them out to the 'extractor.'"

"What kind of a thing is an extractor?"

"It is something that shakes the water out. It has a big basket inside
that goes around like lightning."

"I'd like to see it; where is it?"

"Come into this next room; here it is."

On entering the room Fred's eyes fairly stuck out with amazement. He had
already seen more queer machines that morning than he had ever imagined
had been made, but here was something that surpassed them all. It
consisted of a large cast iron cylinder, about six feet in diameter and
four feet high. Inside was a wire basket, which nearly filled up the
vacant space. This rested on a pivot, and from the top of it extended
upward a short shaft, the end of which was connected with a small
pulley.

The tender of the machine had just put in two whole pieces of double
width beaver cloth dripping wet from the washers, and was now starting
up the machine slowly.

Pretty soon it commenced to whirl around rather rapidly, then the speed
increased as the power was let on, until a buzz was heard, which quickly
gave way to a singing, hissing sound; now followed a spark, then another
and another in quick succession, and the whole rim of the extractor
seemed a perfect blaze.

Fred thought it was going to pieces, and jumped backward for safety; but
by the time he got where he supposed himself out of danger the tender
had shifted the belt to the loose pulley, and by applying the brake had
stopped the whirl of the basket.

Carl laughed at Fred's timidity, and said:

"What were you frightened about? The extractor 'most always does that
way, only it was a little worse this time, because it probably wasn't
loaded even. That's why the fire flew so. Just see how it took the water
out of the cloth. That's the way it does to the flocks."

Fred felt the cloth, and, knowing that two minutes before it was sopping
wet, now found it was only a little damp. The boys returned to the
flockers and straightened out the cloth and got it running even; then
Carl took a car load of the extracted flocks up to the drier, where they
were spread thinly upon it.

The drier is simply a frame upon which is nailed a large surface of wire
sieving, directly under which are coils of hot steam pipes. On this
drier the flocks become baked dry, and are about as hard as dry mud.

"It seems to me that these rags have to go through different machines
enough before they get ready for use. I wonder what the next step is?"
said Fred.

"Only one more machine--the one where you saw me fill my basket with
flocks. I suppose you noticed that it had a big hopper on top? Well, we
just turn these dry lumps right in here, and let them grind out as fast
as they will."

"Then I've been the rounds of our work, have I?" asked Fred.

"Yes, unless Mr. Hanks makes you lug the cloth down."

"Am I supposed to obey him?"

"Yes, he's your boss; and you will be lucky if you have no trouble with
him."

"I shall try to have no trouble, even if he is as disagreeable as he
looks; but I will not be crowded too much."

"I wouldn't if I was strong like you," returned Carl sadly.

"I thought Mr. Farrington had charge of this room," said Fred, after a
pause.

"He does; though I believe he had a lot of trouble to keep these
flockers a-going; it is such bad, dirty work that no one would stay on
them. So he made a trade with Mr. Hanks, and let him the job of making
the flocks and putting them into the cloth, and agreed to furnish him
two boys. I don't know how much pay he gets out of it, but Jack Hickey,
that's scouring the wool there in the other corner, says he is making
money out of us every day; besides, he shirks the work upon us, and we
have it almost all to do."

"Hanks--Christopher Hanks," said Fred to himself, with a curious drawl
through his nose; "not a pleasant sounding name."



XV.


Though Matthew De Vere was much gratified at Fred's misfortunes, and
especially pleased at his own renewed friendship with Nellie Dutton, he
was nevertheless far from happy. Time was going by rapidly--almost
flying--and no money had been raised to meet his promise to Jacob
Simmons. The three hundred dollars was constantly in his mind. Where and
how could it be raised?

The problem tormented him day and night, and he could see no solution to
it. He did not dare to speak to his father about the money, for the
latter would then find out everything, and would be sure to punish him
severely. Matthew did not look upon such an outcome with any degree of
favor. He considered himself a young man, and did not propose to be
treated with the rod.

On the other hand, there stared him in the face Jacob Simmons' threat of
exposure and arrest. The situation was desperate. The money must be got,
whether or no, and yet how could it be procured?

If he failed in raising it, the boy he hated would be vindicated, while
he would be shown up and disgraced before all the village. Nellie would
have nothing more to do with him--would not so much as look at him--and
she would, he reasoned, again become friendly with Fred, and then he
would have no power to break it off as he had recently done. She would
be lost to him, and his rival would reign in his stead.

"No, no! This shall not be!" he said angrily, and spurned the thought
from him; but it as quickly returned. He tried to forget it, but could
not. The pressure from Jacob Simmons forced it back upon his mind, and
it remained there and tormented him till he was almost mad.

In this condition of mind he went to school next day, hoping that a
pleasant greeting and a few smiles from Nellie would dissipate the
vision that had so haunted him. Perhaps they would have done so, but he
had not the pleasure of testing so desirable a remedy.

Nellie came late--after school had commenced.

"It is just my luck that she should be late to-day," he thought, "when
she is always so punctual."

He often looked toward her seat, but could not catch her eye. She seemed
unusually busy with her books.

Matthew did not know what to make of it. He looked at his watch--a
handsome gold one that his father had given him as a birthday present.
It wanted only fifteen minutes of recess time.

"I will see her then," thought Matthew.

The bell rang, and the scholars left their seats and passed out into the
anteroom--all save those who wished to remain and study.

Matthew grew anxious as Nellie did not come out with the other girls.
Recess was half gone. He made an excuse to go to his seat on the
pretense of getting something, but really to try and speak to Nellie.
She was with the teacher, however, who was assisting her to work a
difficult example.

Matthew returned to the anteroom angry. He could not bear the
disappointment gracefully.

"She avoids me for some cause," he said to himself, and then wondered
what it could be. "Last night," he reflected, "we were the best of
friends. Can it be possible that Simmons has already told the secret? He
threatened yesterday that he would unless I made a payment."

The thought made him wretched. He was unfit for study, and wanted to get
out to learn if any such report had actually been circulated.

On the reassembling of school he obtained a dismissal for the day on the
plea of feeling ill. He was ill--very ill at ease in his mind, beset as
it was with fears, and troubled over the sudden change in Nellie's
manner toward him.

On his way from school he met Tim Short. He was glad to see him, and yet
shuddered for fear he would say it was all up with them.

"What brings you here at this time?" finally asked Matthew.

"I was going up to school to see you."

"What has happened that you want to see me?" queried Matthew, dreading
the answer.

"I have been discharged."

"Is that all?" drawing a long breath of relief.

"Isn't that enough?" asked Tim indignantly.

"It might be worse; but what were you discharged for?"

"Discharged to give Fred Worthington my place, I suppose," answered Tim,
with evident ill feeling toward Fred.

"Is it possible? And has he your place?"

"Yes, he went to work this morning."

"I think you have as much cause now as I have to be down on him."

"Yes, and more too," returned Tim savagely.

"On his account we got into this trouble with Simmons, and are liable to
be exposed any day," said Matthew.

Tim turned pale. "I thought you promised to fix that," he replied.

"So I did, but I have not been able to raise the money. Now, something
has got to be done at once. Let us go up to the pines and decide what it
shall be."

Tim assented, and the two boys soon found themselves quite alone in the
thick pine grove just outside of the village.

Now the change Nellie Dutton showed toward Matthew was not caused, as he
supposed, by any disclosure from Jacob Simmons, but by the letter she
had received from Fred in the morning before going to school.

It made a deep impression upon her. She was impulsive, like nearly all
girls of her age, and did not stop to reason much about Fred's case,
especially since Matthew urged his opinions upon her with such
assurance. Her intimacy with Matthew was not from any great regard that
she had for him, but because her nature seemed to demand some favorite,
and when her friendship with Fred ceased, for reasons with which the
reader is already familiar, she accepted Matthew's attentions with a
little more than ordinary courtesy.

Now she saw she had judged Fred hastily, and the statement in his
letter, that she had not proved as good a friend as Grace Bernard,
touched her as nothing else had ever done. She admitted the truth of his
assertion, and felt truly sorry that she had not been more loyal to
him.

"I shall regret my present intimacy with one who has no honor," she
mused. "He must have meant Matthew, and I wonder if he referred to him
in saying, 'when I was led to your house on that wretched night by a
certain person.'" This thought once having taken shape grew upon her.

Nellie studied over Fred's letter, reading it again and again. "You know
he is my enemy." She did not notice this before, but now it recalls the
night of the party. "Yes, Fred, I do know it," she said to herself
almost audibly, "but I had almost forgotten the spite he showed you."

This thought placed Matthew under suspicion, and went far toward helping
Fred's cause, though he was now so thoroughly under a cloud.

Nellie found herself repeating over this sentence: "Grace Bernard stood
by me while you did not." She could hardly drive it from her thoughts,
but why it clung so to her she did not suspect. That evening she wrote
an answer to Fred's letter, and sealed it ready to mail in the morning.

The night was cloudy and dark. A cold November wind from the northeast
swept over the little village--so icy and damp that none cared to
venture out.

There was no trade for the merchants, and they closed their stores
early and hurried shivering to their homes. By ten o'clock not a light
was anywhere to be seen.

All had retired, and nearly all had entered into happy dreamland when
they were suddenly awakened by the shrill cry of "Fire! fire! fire!"

Soon the words were taken up by others and yet others till every person
in the village was aroused and startled by the sound.



XVI.


A fire in a country village is a great event. There is but one other
attraction that approaches it in importance, and that is the annual
circus.

Both bring out the entire village, but the fire draws the better of the
two. It is a free show, while the circus is not, and here it has an
immense advantage over the latter--an advantage that can hardly be
overcome by the clowns and menagerie. It gives the men, the boys too, a
chance to be brave--to do daring deeds and a large number of foolish
ones. Then there is the mystery of how it caught, and whether it was the
work of an incendiary or not. Why, a good sized fire in a village will
often serve for months as a theme for discussion when other subjects are
scarce.

This particular fire was the largest Mapleton had ever known. Every one
had hurriedly dressed, and rushed down the street to see John Rexford's
store burn. Women and children insufficiently wrapped for the chilly air
of this cold November night stood there watching the angry flames as
they shot high in the air, fed by barrels of oil and lard. It was a
grand sight to witness, as the blackness of the night made the flames
doubly brilliant.

Nothing could be done to save the store, and the men directed their
efforts to keeping the flames from spreading. In this they did a good
work. John Rexford did not arrive at the scene until the building was a
sheet of flame and the roof had fallen in. The sight almost crazed him.
He flew at the door as if to enter amid the burning goods and secure
certain valuables, but the fierce flames drove him back. He reluctantly
yielded, and in his helplessness seemed the picture of despair as he saw
before him his store--his idol--a mass of blazing timbers and half
burned goods.

He was now without a store, even as Fred was without a clerkship, and
could perhaps realize to some extent how the latter felt at being
suddenly thrown out of his chosen vocation.

Fred was there too. He stood a little back from the front of the crowd,
and at one side, intently watching the progress of the flames, and
seemingly wrapped in thought. Finally he turned his head, and a little
to the right of him saw Nellie and her mother. Nellie was looking
directly at him, evidently studying his face. When his eyes met hers and
she found that she was discovered, a blush, plainly visible by the
light of the flames, covered her pretty face.

Fred felt his heart beat faster. He longed to speak with her and learn
her thoughts, and yet he did not dare approach her. The peculiar look
she gave him, and that vivid blush--what did it mean? He could not make
up his mind upon these points, and yet there was a fascination in
studying them, for he sometimes persuaded himself that they meant one
thing, and then again perhaps its very opposite.

Presently she and her mother returned home, and Fred saw no more of
them.

The fire was now under control. All danger of its spreading was passed,
and the crowd returned to their several homes well nigh chilled through.
A few men remained to watch the fire as it died away, and to see that no
sparks were carried to other buildings by the strong east wind.

Among those who remained was John Rexford. He was pale and haggard, and
shivered, while the cold wind seemed to penetrate his very bones, yet he
clung to the spot as if he would pluck the mystery--the cause of the
fire--from the burning mass before him. Finally he approached Mr.
Coombs, the sheriff, and said:

"Who was the first to discover this fire?"

"I was," replied the sheriff proudly, with a feeling that he must be
looked upon as something of a hero.

"Did you see it from your house?"

"No; I saw it just as I turned the corner, coming toward the stable."

"Coming which way?" asked the merchant, trying to learn something that
might give him a clew to work upon.

"Coming from the Falls, of course, where I had been attending court."

"What time was that?"

"Nigh on to eleven o'clock."

"And you saw no one here?"

"No."

"Nor any one on the street?"

"Not a soul stirring, except Jim, the stable boy."

"Where was he?"

"Sound asleep."

"He couldn't have been stirring very much then," said the merchant, with
a show of disgust.

"Well, I mean he was the only one about, and I had to wake him up."

"And you raised the alarm?"

"I should think I did."

"Then you didn't come directly here?"

"Yes, I did, but I yelled fire pretty lively all the same, and started
the stable boy up the street to wake everybody up."

"Where was the fire burning then?"

"On the back end of the store. A blaze was just starting up through the
roof."

"It was on the back end, you say?"

"Yes; and just as I got here the back windows burst out, and the way the
flames rolled up was a caution."

"Was there no fire in the front store then?"

"No, there didn't seem to be when I first got here, but after I went
round to the rear end to see how it was there, and came back, the flames
had come through, and everything was ablaze. I tell you what, I never
saw anything burn like it."

"It must have started in the back store, then," said Mr. Rexford
thoughtfully.

"No doubt of it," returned officer Coombs.

"This is important evidence," said the merchant, after a pause.

The sheriff brightened up at this, and his eyes snapped with delight.
Here was a case for official service.

"To be sure it is, sir," he replied.

"There is some mystery about this."

"'Pears to me so."

"We had no stove in the back store."

"I know it--that's so, Mr. Rexford. It looks bad."

"And I closed up the store myself tonight, and went into the back room,
as usual, to see that everything was all right."

"I dare say it was. You are a careful man."

"Yes, it was all right. I'm certain of that."

"Good evidence, too. Capital evidence, Mr. Rexford," said the officer,
rubbing his hands together with evident delight.

"You are sure there was no fire in the front room when you first got
here?"

"I am positive there was none."

"I may want your testimony."

"I hope so, sir, for crime should be punished."

"I hope it will, in this case, at least," said the merchant; "for I
believe this store has been fired, and perhaps robbed."

"Shouldn't wonder if it had been robbed--more than likely it was, now I
think of it."

"But as everything is burned up, it will be almost impossible to find
this out, as I can't really miss anything."

"There will be a chance for some pretty sharp detective work, I should
say."

"You are good at that, I believe," said the merchant.

"Well, I fancy they can't fool me much, if I do say it."

"Then I want you to go to work on this case."

"I will commence at once, Mr. Rexford. The guilty party can't escape me
when I give my whole mind to it."

"I hope you will put your whole mind on it, then."

"I shall indeed, sir. I will go home now and form my theory. I have the
facts to work on. Early in the morning I will see you, and we will
compare notes and get ready for business--active business, I assure
you."



XVII.


After being out during the night at the fire, and consequently having
had his rest broken, Fred found it rather irksome to spring out of bed
at five o'clock, get his breakfast, and be ready to respond to the
factory whistle on a wintry morning.

He had now got sufficient knowledge of his work, and found very little
difficulty in performing it. Whenever he wanted any instruction or help,
Carl seemed ready and glad to aid him, so the two boys soon became
friends.

"How long have you been on these flockers, Carl?" asked Fred the morning
after the fire.

"Only two months."

"Where did you work before that? I don't remember ever having seen you
till yesterday morning, and I don't know what your last name is now. I
heard Mr. Hanks call you Carl, so I suppose that is your given name?"

"Yes, my name is Carl Heimann; I have been in here ever since I came to
Mapleton."

"Where did you come from?"

"My father and mother came from Germany when I was a small boy, and
they lived in Rhode Island; but they both got sick and died, so I came
here to live with my uncle."

"What is your uncle's name?" Fred went on to inquire.

"His name is Frank Baumgarten."

"Oh, I've seen him plenty of times. I used to take goods to his house
from the store. It seems queer that I never saw you."

"I don't go out any nights, for I get tired out by working in here
eleven hours and a half every day, I can tell you," said Carl.

"Yes, I should think you would; you don't look very strong."

"Well, I guess I can get along better now that you are here; but Tim
Short used to shirk and crowd me. If Mr. Hanks would do his part of the
work it wouldn't be so hard; but he won't do it, and is cross and finds
fault if we don't hurry things up."

When Fred's eyes first fell upon the pale, sad face of Carl, and he
noticed his dwarfed and disfigured form, he had a feeling of pity for
him. There was that about his manner which at once interested him. The
boy's features were good, and yet they had that sharp, shrunken
appearance which may be said to be characteristic of the majority of
those afflicted with spinal trouble. He was a little humpback, who, from
his size, would be taken for a lad of not more than thirteen, though he
was then seventeen, one year older than Fred, as the latter afterward
learned.

The interest our hero felt in Carl had gradually increased as he noticed
how intelligent he appeared, and when he said that he had no father nor
mother, and told how he had been treated, Fred's sympathy was touched,
and he said to himself, almost unconsciously, "I'm glad I'm here, for
now I can do the heavy work, and will protect him from the abuse of this
man Hanks!" Then he said to the boy (for he seemed but such beside his
own sturdy form), "Yes, I think you will get along better now, for I am
strong and well, and will do all the heavy work for you."

"Oh, I'm so glad!" replied Carl, with a sense of gratitude which showed
itself in his bright eyes, "for it hurts my back every time I lift one
of the heavy bags of wet flocks, and almost makes me think I will have
to give up the job. Then I think my uncle can't support me, and so I
keep on."

"You shall not lift any more of them while I am here. I would rather do
that, any way, than stay here in the dust."

"How long will you be here?" asked the little humpback, anxious lest the
brighter prospect might last but a short time.

"I don't know. I don't want to stay in the factory any longer than I am
obliged to; but that may be forever," replied Fred, with a clouded brow,
as his mind reverted to the cause that brought him down to such work.

"I don't see why you need to stay in here. You have been clerk in a
store, and have a good education, I suppose. If I only had an
education----"

"Haven't you ever been to school?"

"I went to school a little in the old country, and three terms in Rhode
Island; then I went into the factory. My father was sick, and couldn't
work. After I had been in there about a year, my coat caught one day in
the shafting and wound me round it so they had to shut down the water
wheel to get me off. Everybody thought I was dead. That's what hurt my
back and made it grow the way it is now."

"How long ago was that?" inquired Fred sympathetically.

"It was six years ago that I got hurt, but I did not get out of bed for
almost two years afterward."

"Does your back trouble you now?"

"Yes, it aches all the time; but I've got rather used to it. Only when I
do a lot of lifting here, it bothers me so I can't sleep."

"That's too bad. I'm sorry for you, and, as I said, will do all the
heavy work. Then you didn't go to school any after you got out again?"

"No; I went back into the mill and stayed until my mother died; then I
came here."

"Did you say your father was dead?"

"Yes; he died while I was sick."

"Have you any brothers or sisters?"

"No; I have no one but my uncle."

"I suppose he is kind to you?"

"Yes, he is; but Aunt Gretchen don't seem to like me very well, she has
so many children of her own."

"I should think you would board somewhere else, then."

"My uncle wants me to stay with him. If I boarded at the factory
boarding house my wages wouldn't more than pay my board, and I shouldn't
have anything left to buy my clothes with. If I should leave him and
then get sick he wouldn't take care of me, and I should have to go to
the poorhouse. I have always dreaded that since the city helped us when
we were all sick."

"Well, you will soon be strong enough, I hope, to get another job, where
there is more pay."

This conversation was now interrupted by the appearance of Hanks, who
said to Fred:

"Come along up stairs with me, Worthington; I want yer ter help me lug
some cloth down. I'll show yer where ter find it; then yer kin git it
yerself erlone. Yer look stout 'nuff ter handle it 's well as me."

Each shouldered a web of cloth which made a bundle about two feet
through and six feet long--rather a heavy burden for a boy; still, Fred
handled it easily and quickly, deposited it by the flockers, and turned
to his superior for further orders.

"Take out them pieces next; they have run long enough. Carl will help
you about doing it; then you may go up and bring down two more pieces."

With these orders he vanished, and the boys went to their work.

"How long do these have to be run?" asked Fred of the little humpback.

"About three hours. If they stayed in longer than that they would get
too heavy."

"This light stuff don't make them so very much heavier, does it?"

"Oh, yes; we can beat in flocks enough to double the weight of the
cloth."

"Is that so?" exclaimed the new hand incredulously; and then added,
after a moment's thought, "But I should think they would all tumble
out."

"I suppose they would if the cloth wasn't fulled as soon as we get
through with it; but that sort of sets them in."

"Where do they full it?"

"Out in the fulling mills, near the extractor. Didn't you see those long
wooden things with the covers turned back, and the cloth going up
through them so fast?"

"Yes, I saw them, but didn't know what they were. I don't see how going
through those fulls the cloth."

"It's the stuff they put in--fuller's earth and soap; they pile the soft
soap in by the dishful, and it makes a great lather. I s'pose the
fuller's earth is what does the most of the work. After the cloth comes
out of the fulling mills it's 'bout twice as thick as when it goes in,
and feels all stiff and heavy. It's no more like what it is now than
nothing."

"What's the next process it goes through?"

"It goes into the washers next, and is washed as clean as can be."

"How did you learn so much about finishing cloth? You have been here but
a little while."

"My father worked in a mill, and I have heard him talk about it. Then I
have been in a factory enough myself to know pretty nearly everything
that is done."

"Do we take the cloth direct from the weave room? It doesn't look as
though anything had been done to it when it reaches us."

"It is 'burled' first; then we get it."

"'Burled'? What do you mean by that?"

"Why, the knots are all cut off. You see the weavers have to tie their
warp on the back side when it breaks, and that is what makes the knots."

"I don't see what harm those little things would do, as you say they are
on the back of the cloth."

"They are the worst things there are, for if one of them gets in by
accident it is sure to make a hole through the cloth when it runs
through the shears."

Thus, with work and talk, the day flew by almost before Fred was aware
of it. In fact, the hours seemed shorter to him than any he had passed
for weeks. Now there was something new to occupy his attention, and work
enough to keep his hands busy. The many curious machines before him, of
which Carl had told him a little, interested him much--so much, indeed,
that even at the end of the first day he felt no small desire to know
more of them.



XVIII.


In the evening, after Fred's second day in the factory, as he sat with
his parents in their pleasant home, and the thought of Carl and of his
sad deformity and still sadder story recurred to him, he could not help
contrasting the circumstances of the little humpback with his own.

Two mornings before, as he entered the mill, he had felt that his burden
was almost greater than he could bear. He was disgraced and thrown out
of his position, and was about entering upon a cheerless life, where
there was but little opportunity for advancement.

But now, as he reflected upon his surroundings, he saw that he was much
better off than many others. He had both father and mother, who loved
and cared for him, who provided for him a cheerful home, and who would
at any time sacrifice their own pleasures and comforts for his.
Moreover, he was well and strong, and had the advantage of attending
school, while Carl had been obliged to go into the mill at a little more
than ten years of age, in order to earn something toward the support of
his mother and invalid father. It was while thus employed that he met
with the terrible accident that so deformed him and blighted his young
life.

"No wonder he looks so sad," said Fred to himself. "Perhaps he may be as
ambitious to make a success in the world as I am, and yet he is thrown
into the factory, and is probably glad of even such a place, and maybe
he works hard at times when he is really unable to do anything. Poor
boy! I don't see what prospects he can see ahead to cheer him on. He has
neither friends, education, nor health, and with so small a chance as
there is in the factory for advancement, I should think he might as well
give up first as last; but as he has no home, I suppose he must earn a
living somehow or starve. If he only had friends to take care of him, it
would not be so hard on him; but I don't see how he can be very happy
with a woman like his aunt, who is always spluttering about somebody or
something."

Fred secretly determined to do all he could to help the little cripple,
and made up his mind that Hanks should not abuse him in the future if he
could help it. Then calling to mind Carl's remark that morning, which
showed so clearly his desire for a better education, he felt he could
aid him, and decided to do so.

"Any new evidence?" asked Sheriff Coombs, as he met Mr. Rexford early
in the morning at the scene of the fire.

"No, nothing except what we discussed last night."

"That is good as far as it goes."

"Well, it goes far enough to convince me," replied the merchant tartly.

"To be sure, sir, but we must convince the court. A mere suspicion, sir,
is not good in law."

"You said last night you were the first one here, and that the fire
started in the back store."

"So I did, but I can't say what caused the fire."

"It shows that it did not catch from the stove."

"That is so, and it leads us to suspect the store was set on fire--in
fact, that is my belief. We stand agreed on this point; but the court
must have evidence or we can't make out a case."

"Then we must search for evidence," said the merchant.

"My official duty, sir, is to bring the wrongdoer to justice, and I
assure you I take a special interest in this case. I shall do my best
work on it; but, by the way, there will be some slight expense connected
with it."

"I don't understand you," replied the merchant nervously, for he caught
the word "expense."

"Nothing of any consequence, to be sure, but of course you know a
detective can't work without means."

"How much will it cost me?" asked the merchant, after a pause.

"I will make it light--for you almost nothing," answered the sheriff,
who began to fear he would lose the opportunity to perform official
service.

"Very well, then, you may go ahead; but I warn you not to come back on
me with a heavy charge for this business."

"Your wishes shall be heeded, sir. I will commence now. By the way, do
you suspect any one in particular?"

"Yes, I have one or two reasons for believing I know who did it."

"Good! That will give us an idea to work on; but first let me look
around and see what I can discover for evidence."

On the rear side of the back room was a window. A few feet from this
window part of a load of sawdust lay upon the ground. Here the sheriff
found several footprints.

"How long has this sawdust been here?" he called out to Mr. Rexford.

"It was put there several days ago," he replied.

"I wish you would look here. I have made an important discovery."

The merchant quickly approached the spot.

"Do you see those footprints? When do you think they were made?"

"Last night about dark I shoveled up several basketfuls and carried them
into the stable. These tracks must have been made since then."

"Do you feel sure of this?"

"I do, and I notice the prints point exactly to where the back window
was."

"That is a good point, sir; but do you notice that whoever made that
track must have had a small foot?"

"Yes, I see it is small, and that goes to strengthen my suspicions."

"It measures ten inches long and three wide," said the sheriff, applying
his rule to the footprint.

In about an hour from this time Sheriff Coombs entered the woolen
factory, and a minute or two later went to the flockers.

"Do you want to see me?" asked Fred, as he saw the officer fasten his
eyes on him.

"Yes; I have a warrant for your arrest."

"For my arrest!" exclaimed Fred in amazement. "What for?"

"On complaint of John Rexford, for setting fire to his store," replied
the sheriff, in a pompous manner.



XIX.


Fred stared at the sheriff in blank amazement at the terrible charge now
brought against him.

"I am charged with setting fire to John Rexford's store?" he repeated.

"Yes."

"And you say Mr. Rexford makes the charge?" demanded Fred, in great
excitement.

"Yes, he makes the charge," replied the officer, in a manner that was
extremely irritating to our young hero.

"I don't know what it means," answered Fred.

"You know the store was burned, I suppose?" said the sheriff
sarcastically.

"I do, sir; but what has that to do with me?"

"The question is one that must be answered by the court. My duty is to
see that you appear there for trial."

"When will the trial be?" asked Fred, pale and depressed.

"At two o'clock this afternoon you must appear before Justice Plummer."

"Can I remain at work till then?"

"No; you must go with me."

"Is it necessary for me to go to the lockup?" asked Fred, shrinking with
natural repugnance from such a place.

"It is, unless you can furnish surety for your appearance at the trial."

"If I promise to be there, isn't that enough?"

"I should not be doing my official duty to let you off on your promise,"
answered the sheriff.

"I would rather stay with you until two o'clock than go to the lockup."

"My time is worth too much to waste. I have a great deal of official
business to attend to," said the officer; and after a pause, he added,
"But if you were to give me five dollars, cash down, I think I could fix
it for you."

"I haven't so much money with me, but I promise to pay it to you."

"I should prefer the cash."

Fred went to Mr. Farrington, accompanied by the sheriff, to try and
borrow money enough to make up the five dollars, and to ask advice. His
kind employer took him to one side and spoke low, so that the officer
could not hear him. After getting the facts of the arrest, and asking a
few questions, which were answered satisfactorily, Mr. Farrington turned
to the sheriff and said:

"I am surprised, Mr. Coombs, that you should try to scare this boy into
paying you five dollars, with the threat of taking him to the lockup. I
had a better opinion of you than this," he added emphatically.

Officer Coombs hung his head and colored. He lost the official bearing
with which he had so impressed our young friend.

"I am responsible for his appearance at the trial," he at last answered,
in defense of his position.

"Very well; that is no reason why you should take advantage of an
innocent boy who knows nothing of the law. I will go surety for him, and
will be present at the trial. If you want me to give a bond for his
appearance I will do so."

"It would be right to have the bond, but I will not ask it from you. I
have faith in you, you see," said the sheriff, trying to win back his
good opinion by a bit of flattery.

Mr. Farrington shrugged his shoulders. Turning to Fred, he told him to
go to his work, and promised that at the appointed time he would
accompany him to the trial.

Of course Fred had to tell his parents at noon what had happened. They
were alarmed at first at so grave a charge, but became calm, as they
felt sure they could prove Fred was at home on the night of the fire.

"I think the tide will turn now, Fred," said his father. "You have had
more than your share of ill luck, but I am proud of you, that you stand
up under fire like a man."

"I hope it has turned, father, and I am glad of your approval. This
charge, though, seems to be one of malice."

"It does seem so; but we can tell at the trial whether it is or not."

Justice Plummer was a middle aged man, with a kind, intellectual face.
He spoke slowly and thoughtfully. When our hero entered he greeted him
in a kindly way.

"I am sorry to see you here, Fred," he began, "and I hope no evidence of
guilt will be found against you. Though I feel a friendly interest in
you, it is my duty, as you know, to decide the case impartially."

"I know it is, judge," replied Fred, "and I think the evidence will
prove my innocence."

John Rexford now came in with his lawyer, Mr. Clarence Ham, a young man
noted for his eloquence.

Mr. Rexford was sworn as a witness, and deposed that he had strong
grounds for believing his store was burned by an incendiary, and that he
had reasons for suspecting Fred Worthington to be the guilty party,
though he admitted that he had little or no real proof to sustain this
belief.

He gave his evidence upon the facts that led him to think the store was
maliciously burned. Sheriff Coombs added his testimony upon this point.
These facts, having been already given, need not be repeated.

"This testimony gives no absolute proof that the store was burned by an
incendiary," said the judge.

"But I submit that the circumstances--the facts, if you please--lead to
that conclusion," put in attorney Ham.

"To be sure, they give rise to a strong suspicion that it was, but
unless we get further testimony to this end, the court cannot hold the
prisoner for trial."

Mr. Rexford now gave his evidence, showing why he suspected Fred of
being the guilty party.

This being simply a hearing before a justice, Mr. Farrington was allowed
to serve Fred in place of a lawyer.

"You say," said Mr. Farrington, addressing the witness, "you thought at
the time you discharged Fred Worthington from your employ that some sort
of revenge would follow. Will you kindly state why you thought so?"

"His manner indicated it."

"In what way, please?"

"He was very saucy and impudent."

"In what manner was he impudent?"

"He threatened me."

"Simply because you informed him you wouldn't need his services longer?"

"Well, yes, that is about it," answered the witness hesitatingly.

"The court would like to know the exact facts," said Judge Plummer.

"I shall endeavor to give them," answered the witness.

"Then please state in what way he threatened you," said Mr. Farrington.

"It was in his manner. I had to conciliate him to save trouble. I was
absolutely afraid of him."

"In what way did you conciliate him?"

"By modifying my statement."

"What was your statement?"

"It was something about his taking money from my drawer."

"You charged him, then, with stealing?"

"Not exactly."

"This was the point, however, that you modified?"

"Yes."

"Did that satisfy him?"

"Well, yes, it seemed to," admitted the witness reluctantly.

"Then, Mr. Rexford, your testimony shows that Fred Worthington did not
complain at being discharged, but at a statement which you had no right
to make. I judge he simply acted as any proud spirited boy would have
done."

John Rexford grew fidgety.

"Was there any other cause for his being impudent?"

"No."

"No question of settlement, I suppose?"

"Nothing worth speaking of," answered the witness, growing very nervous.

"As it may have some bearing upon this case, you will please state what
it was."

Mr. Farrington had a whispered consultation with Fred at this juncture,
which made the merchant very ill at ease, and caused him to testify more
fully upon the point than he otherwise would have done.

"I at first thought I would keep the amount due him to make up my loss;
but his manner was so hostile that I feared he would injure me in some
way, so I gave him the money."

"Did he threaten you with personal violence?"

"No."

"He made no threat at all, then?"

"As I said, after thinking the matter over, I thought it would be policy
to pay him," answered the witness, trying to evade the point.

"But you have not answered the question. Did he, or did he not, make any
sort of a threat which caused you to change your mind?" demanded Mr.
Farrington.

"Well, yes, in a certain sense."

"In what sense?"

"He threatened to make false statements about my business."

"Would these statements have injured you?"

"They might have, for a time."

"You are sure the statements he threatened to make were false, with no
foundation of truth," asked Mr. Farrington.

The witness hesitated. He saw Fred looking him square in the eye, and he
shrank from answering, for he realized that the truth would probably be
brought out by his former clerk.

"Yes, sir, I am sure they were false," he finally answered, while
inwardly anathematizing himself at being caught in such a trap. He felt
that Fred was getting the better of the case, and that, too, by his own
testimony.

"In your testimony, Mr. Rexford, you said Fred Worthington impressed you
at the time of his discharge with the idea that he would do you some
subsequent harm. Was that impression founded upon his attitude of self
defense?" asked Judge Plummer, in his slow, thoughtful way.

"No, sir, not that."

"Will you state, then, what caused you to form such an opinion?"

"Of course I could not tell his thoughts, but the deep study he seemed
to be in convinced me that he was revolving in his mind some plot to be
revenged on me for discharging him."

"This cannot be considered evidence," replied the judge. "His thoughts
might have run upon an entirely different subject."



XX.


The testimony so far had very little weight, and really told against the
merchant more than it did against our young friend.

The track in the sawdust, however, which was measured, and which was
found to be the same size as Fred's shoe and of the same general shape,
was very good evidence, and being testified to by both Mr. Rexford and
the sheriff, went far toward bringing our hero under suspicion of having
committed the crime.

The merchant's lawyer grew eloquent over this point, but his spread
eagle style failed to impress the quiet, thoughtful judge to any great
extent.

The testimony for the prosecution now being all in, Fred was put upon
the stand, and testified that he was at home the night of the fire, had
been at home all the evening, and was in bed when the cry of fire was
sounded.

"How long had you been in bed?" asked attorney Ham.

"About two hours, I think," answered Fred.

"Are you sure about that?"

"I can't say it was exactly two hours, but I know it was not far from
nine o'clock when I retired, and it was about eleven when the alarm of
fire awoke me."

"Were you asleep when the alarm was started?"

"I was."

"I have no more questions at present to ask the witness," said the
lawyer to the judge.

"I have one I would like to ask the witness," said Mr. Farrington, and
then addressing Fred, he said:

"John Rexford testified that you threatened to make false statements
about his business if he kept the money due you. Is this true?"

"I object to this question," said attorney Ham, who had learned the
merchant's great desire to avoid further testimony upon this point. "It
has no bearing upon this case."

"It does have a bearing upon the case, and I have a special reason for
wanting an answer to my question," replied Mr. Farrington.

"The witness may answer," said the judge.

"Your honor," put in Ham, "I protest against bringing in the private
business of my client, which has no relation to this case."

"This case is entirely one of circumstantial evidence," replied the
judge, "and it is important that we get at the facts regarding the boy's
character. The witness will answer the question."

"No, sir, it is not true."

"Did you make no threat whatever?"

"When he said he would keep my money, I told him it was a mean trick,
but not much meaner than I had seen him play upon his customers."

"What reply did he make?"

"He asked me if I meant to insinuate that he cheated his customers."

"And you replied?"

"I said I did."

"What followed?"

"He threatened to have me arrested."

"And what did you say to that?"

"I replied that I would like to have him do so, for I could then tell
some things about his methods that would make a stir in the village."

"This, then, is the threat you made?"

"Yes, if you call it a threat," answered Fred.

"Mr. Rexford's testimony does not agree with yours upon this point,"
said the judge. "Was there no statement about any special subject which
Mr. Rexford considered false?"

"There was a reference to one or two matters," replied our young hero
evasively.

The merchant now looked pale and wretched. His crooked business methods
were about to be made known, and such a disclosure, coming right upon
the loss of his store, was crushing to him.

"You will please state one of them," said the judge.

"I would prefer not to," said Fred.

"Why do you hesitate?" asked his honor.

"Because I do not wish to reveal matters about my employer's business
that should be considered confidential."

"It is honorable in you to be so considerate of your former employer,
and especially as he is now trying to establish a case against you. As
you are only a boy, I consider it but right that I should advise you to
show, if you can, that you did not threaten to make a false statement
regarding his business. Such proof would aid your case and show well for
your character."

Fred hesitated, thinking what he ought to do. Mr. Rexford took advantage
of the pause, and asked if he would be allowed to speak a word upon this
point before it was carried further. As no objection was raised by the
defense, he said:

"I must acknowledge an error in my testimony regarding Fred's threat of
a false statement. I was so wrought up over the matter that I hardly
understood the exact language, but now I have heard his testimony it all
comes back to me. His statement is essentially true."

This was an unexpected turn for matters to take. It was, however, less
surprising to Fred than to the judge, and to those drawn by curiosity
to the trial. The reason for Mr. Rexford's retraction was very evident,
and caused many a significant glance, and here and there an exchange of
opinions upon the matter in an undertone.

Though humiliating, it was nevertheless a fortunate move for the
merchant, and he was lucky to get out of his own trap so well.

Fred was looked upon at first by the villagers present as being without
doubt guilty, but now they began to have some admiration for him; and as
the tide turned in his favor it set against the merchant, till at length
our young friend was the more popular of the two.

Fred's father and mother both corroborated his testimony upon the point
of his being at home all the evening on the night of the fire, and
stated that he retired to bed at about nine o'clock.

They were questioned by lawyer Ham as to whether Fred could have left
the house and returned, unknown to them, between the hours of nine and
eleven o'clock, when the fire was probably set.

Their testimony upon this point evidently satisfied Judge Plummer that
Fred was innocent of the charge John Rexford had brought against him,
for after carefully going over the testimony on both sides, he said:

"I find nothing in the evidence that would tend to place suspicion upon
Fred Worthington, who is charged with maliciously burning John Rexford's
store. The testimony for the prosecution has no real weight, while that
for the defense is strong, indisputable evidence, that removes all doubt
as to the boy's whereabouts during the two hours when the fire must have
been set, if it was set at all. I therefore discharge the accused, as no
evidence has been offered that would justify me in holding him;" and
then turning to our hero with a friendly smile, he added: "Fred, you can
go. It is clear that you are innocent of the charge made against you."

"I thank you sincerely," said Fred, with an expression of true
gratitude.

"Before you go, Fred, I wish to congratulate you upon the way you have
acquitted yourself during this trial," said Judge Plummer, taking him by
the hand. "Placed under fire as you have been, but few boys would have
displayed the manhood you have shown."

Our young friend was profoundly moved at these kind, reassuring words,
coming as they did from one who had the power to hold him for a grave
crime.

Fred's parents were very happy at the outcome of the trial, and at Judge
Plummer's complimentary remarks to their son, their only child. But
scarcely less gratified than they was Mr. Farrington. He not only felt
pride in triumphing over the somewhat wordy lawyer Ham, but genuine
satisfaction and pleasure that Fred should be cleared of all suspicion
in this case.

John Rexford was defeated, dissatisfied, miserable. He had injured
himself and helped his discharged clerk, who he still thought had
something to do with the destruction of his store. He now quickly
withdrew from the place of the trial before any one could approach him
to intensify his misery by questions upon the various points of
evidence.



XXI.


Matthew De Vere and Tim Short had compromised matters with Jacob Simmons
so that all immediate danger was passed. They were comparatively easy on
this point, as a little more time had been granted them in which to pay
the balance promised him; yet they did not feel entirely secure.

Fred's arrest on the charge of burning the store meant more to each of
them than a mere gratification at seeing him humbled and perhaps
punished. If they had been sure he would be convicted of the crime,
doubtless they would have been happy indeed. The case meant so much to
them that they attended the trial; and their discomfiture at the
result--at seeing Fred vindicated and honorably discharged--was more
than will be imagined.

They left the place of trial together, and had a long private
discussion, which seemed not entirely satisfactory.

"Meet me in the pines tomorrow noon, Tim," said De Vere as he left him,
wearing a worried look--almost one of fear.

Aside from these troubles, Matthew was far from happy. He had tried to
learn the cause of Nellie's manner toward him the last time he saw her
at school. He could not understand what had brought about the change in
her.

He had not seen her for nearly a week, for she was at home sick. She
took a severe cold on the night of the fire by exposure to the damp,
chilly air, and had not been able to come out since. Matthew called at
the doctor's to offer her his sympathy, but she would not see him. He
learned from his sister, who had called every day that Nellie was up and
around the house, and from this fact he argued that she shunned him.

Fred really expected no reply to his letter to Nellie, and yet he hoped
almost against hope, as it seemed to him, that she might acknowledge its
receipt in some way. If only a word, and that one of criticism, he felt
that it would be much more welcome than nothing.

Little did he realize how near he came to receiving the coveted letter,
for it was actually written, and was one that would have given him great
pleasure.

Nellie wrote the letter in the evening before the fire, and intended
mailing it the next morning; but when morning came she found herself too
ill to leave the house.

Two days passed; then came the report of Fred's arrest. The news made
her cheeks burn. She condemned herself for having written the letter,
and while the shock was fresh upon her she destroyed it. And as it lay
in the waste basket, torn into little pieces, she looked at it and felt
almost sorry she had been so hasty; even wished, though she hardly dared
acknowledge it to herself, that he had the letter, guilty or not.

She took his note from her pocket and read it again; then buried her
face in her hands in deep thought.

She was interrupted by Grace Bernard, who ran in to spend a little time
with her.

"Oh, isn't it good news?" she exclaimed, in her animated, girlish way.

"Isn't what good news?" asked Nellie curiously.

"Why, the result of the trial. Haven't you heard of it?"

"Has he been acquitted?" asked Nellie eagerly.

"Yes."

"No, I had not heard of the result," she replied, blushing as she
realized the interest she had shown. "I only learned of the trial a few
minutes ago."

"I am so glad he was proved innocent. I think it was shameful to bring
such a charge against him," returned Grace.

"He has been unfortunate," replied Nellie, refraining from an expression
of her own feelings.

"Yes, he has; but I do not believe any of the charges against him.
Father said that Mr. Rexford was confused and embarrassed at the trial.
It all came out about Fred's discharge and the missing money."

"Was it favorable to Fred?"

"Yes. Mr. Rexford had to retract his own testimony, and acknowledge that
Fred was right."

"Did they learn anything about the missing money?"

"No; but father said there was no proof that Fred took it, and no good
reason for thinking so. You know I told you when the report first
started that I did not believe it."

"Yes, I know you did," replied Nellie, dropping her eyes, and thinking
of the reference to the fact in Fred's letter to her.

"Dave told me a few days ago," continued Grace, "that Fred thought
nearly all of his friends had turned against him, and that he felt
terribly hurt about it. I know I have not turned against him, and I
shall write and tell him so; then he will know he has one friend at
least."

"He already knows it," said Nellie, in a slightly bitter tone.

"Why, how can that be, and what leads you to think so?" asked Grace,
with surprise.

"I mean--probably he knows it. Dave might have told him," replied
Nellie, with evident embarrassment at the fact she had unintentionally
disclosed, and her inability to explain how she came by this information
without making reference to Fred's letter to her.

Grace looked puzzled, and after a pause said:

"Yes, possibly he knows it, but I wish to be sure of it; and as I have
no opportunity of seeing him now he is at work in the factory, I will
write the letter and mail it to him. It can do no harm."

When Nellie had been left alone she could not resist referring once more
to that part of Fred's letter that spoke of Grace's friendship. This,
and the fact that she was intending to write him a friendly, encouraging
letter, troubled Nellie. She was very glad that he had been found
innocent, and that he had merited the praise of the judge, and yet she
felt depressed that another should feel so happy over it. If only she
had learned the news from some other source, or if Grace had shown some
indifference, she would have been delighted.

Why this should trouble her she hardly knew, but that it did she was
certain. She wondered if Grace would say anything about her in the
letter she would write to Fred. "I am afraid she will," Nellie said to
herself. "I wish I had shown more sympathy for him, and I wanted to so
much. But why should she be so happy over his triumph? The idea of her
writing to him to tell him of her friendship!"

These thoughts annoyed Nellie, and she felt--yes, we may as well confess
it--a little jealous of her friend Grace.



XXII.


The next morning, as Fred was busy at his work, Carl came in from the
post office, whither he had gone for the mail for several of the
employees, and handed him two letters. On looking at them Fred was
surprised to find both postmarked "Mapleton."

He tore one of them open nervously, hoping it might be the long looked
for and much coveted answer to his own letter to Nellie Dutton. He
looked at the signature--"Grace Bernard."

"What can this mean?" The thought shot through his mind, and then he
proceeded to find out in a very sensible way, by reading the letter.

It was simply a friendly letter, that showed a refreshing sympathy for
his misfortunes, and expressed a belief that he would in time triumph
over all opposition.

The writer assured him of her belief in his innocence, and congratulated
him upon his perfect vindication at the trial. She spoke of Nellie's
sickness, and added that it would not be long before he would be more
highly appreciated by his friends than ever.

This brief letter touched Fred deeply and brought tears of joy to his
eyes. He felt so happy that he hesitated before opening the other
letter, fearing it might cast a cloud over the sunshine this little note
had brought him.

"And Nellie has been sick," he said to himself thoughtfully. "Perhaps
this letter may be from her. I will open it and see."

It ran like this:

     MAPLETON.

     MY DEAR FRIEND:--Your letter, so unexpected, was a surprise
     to me, but I am very glad you sent it, otherwise we might not
     have understood each other as well as I now hope we may. It
     grieves me that you should feel so offended at my seeming
     lack of friendship. Perhaps the time may come when you will
     think differently. Had I received your letter two weeks ago,
     or had you then told me what you say you would have explained
     in confidence, you would probably have no cause now to
     complain of me.

     Your letter, in some respects, is a puzzle to me. It has
     almost made me suspicious of a certain party, but I must wait
     and see what time will tell, then perhaps we shall find it
     agreeable to talk over the matter and be as friendly as ever.
     You may feel sure I was very glad of your success at the
     trial, and I hope, oh so much, that you will triumph over all
     your misfortunes. I should have answered your letter more
     promptly, but I have been, and still am, kept at home by a
     bad cold which I took the night of the fire.

     With best wishes, sincerely your friend, NELLIE DUTTON.

Instead of throwing a shadow over our young friend's horizon, this
letter swept away, for a time, the few remaining clouds, and made the
sunshine so bright and cheering that he was happy indeed. He had been
cast down so long by bitter misfortunes, that these expressions of
friendship, and especially those of Miss Nellie, seemed to liberate his
fettered spirits, and make them bound high with joy.

His work seemed nothing to him. The flockers lost their dusty, dingy
appearance. The heavy rolls of cloth were but playthings in his hands.
There was no friction, no irritation. Everything moved with the grace
and charm of a well modeled yacht with swelling sails upon a rippling
sea.

"She wishes so much that I may triumph over all my misfortunes," he said
to himself, "and I can see now she almost suspects De Vere. I know she
means him. I have been a fool to misjudge her so--and she is at home
sick, poor girl!"

Here a sudden impulse seized him, and in a few moments he was at John
Fielding's hot house and ordered a dollar's worth of choice cut flowers.
He handed the florist the money and directed him to send them to Nellie
Dutton with his card.

The old florist was startled--could hardly believe his own senses. Such
an order to be received from a boy was unprecedented--nothing of the
kind had ever been known in the village, and that Fred Worthington, now
a factory boy, should be the one to lead off in this very commendable
fashion--a fashion that is only really practised in the larger
towns--seemed too much to realize.

Fred saw this plainly in the queer little old man's face, and he blushed
deeply as he thought what he had done.

Whether the florist hoped to encourage this sort of trade by liberal
dealing I cannot say, but that he sent some very choice flowers, and a
large quantity for the money, is certain. It would be difficult to
imagine a more surprised or delighted person than Nellie Dutton was when
she opened the box and took from it the sweet smelling flowers, and a
neatly written card bearing the name--"Fred Worthington."

If she was a little jealous of her friend Grace on the previous day, she
now had no occasion to feel so. Her letter had brought a response that
she little expected--a response, however, that made her quite as happy
as Fred.

If she had, up to this time, held serious doubts as to his innocence,
they were now dispelled. A little act will many times go far toward
changing one's opinion, and there are few arguments more forcible with
girls, and even ladies of mature age, than are choice flowers. This act
of Fred, though seemingly absurd for a boy in his position, was a
master stroke in his favor, for it not only won Nellie's friendship
fully back, but it also created a very favorable impression upon her
mother, who was scarcely less pleased with the flowers than Nellie
herself.



XXIII.


When Fred had first entered the mill his attention was arrested by Jack
Hickey--a witty, good natured Irishman. He was a quaint character, full
of fun and humor. His employment was washing and scouring wool and
shoddy--not a very genteel labor, for it was wet and dirty work, as well
as tiresome. However, Jack received for such service $1.75 per day, and
this made him happier than a $10,000 salary makes many a bank president.

Hickey was called by the boys the "Jolly Scourer"--not a bad appellation
for him either. His tub and rinser were near the flockers. Fred could
see and hear him while at his own work, and this furnished our young
friend much amusement; for whenever Jack had pitched the wool about in
the strong suds and was waiting for the action of steam upon it, he
usually filled in the time by singing bits of original rhyme and by clog
dancing.

His rhymes were as queer as himself, while his dancing was equally
peculiar. He had been persistent in the practice of the latter art, no
doubt; in fact, there was decided evidence of this, for in spite of the
clumsy cowhides that he wore, his right foot showed much careful
training. It was full of music and always on time. It could tap the
floor with the ease and skill with which a practised drummer beats the
resonant diaphragm. Moreover, it seemed to know all the steps of a
professional dancer, while his left foot was a thorough clod, so far as
this art went.

It always seemed to go just contrary to the other, and gave the
appearance of attempting something more difficult than it was capable of
performing. Indeed, this was almost the invariable result, as its
accomplishments in this line were so exceedingly few; besides, it was
always out of time, was clumsy and awkward, and was such a foot as is
familiarly described among boys as "belonging to the church."

"It is very queer why there is such a difference in the action of that
man's feet," remarked Fred to himself, with a suppressed titter; "but I
think, after all, the clumsy one is the most natural, and does just
about as I should expect a foot to do when incased in such an amount of
leather and belonging to such a man as Jack. What I don't understand is,
how the other one ever became so gamy."

Fred wondered if Jack was doing all that practice simply for his own
pleasure, or if he was trying to fit himself for an engagement with
some minstrel troupe. If for the latter purpose, there was some object
in it; but if simply for fun, Fred could not see where it came in when
he considered the immense amount of effort it must have taken to wield
with such dexterity those great boots, whose legs reached far above the
dancer's knee, and the soles of which were nearly an inch in thickness
and contained a generous supply of iron slugs.

When Fred first witnessed Jack's comical performances, they amused him
hugely, and he thought he had never before seen anything half so funny;
even the annual circus, with its train of animals, and dancers, and
tumblers and clowns, could not equal it. The "Jolly Scourer" was
extremely comical and clownish, evidently without trying to be so, while
the circus clown's _effort_ at comical acts and sayings detracts from
the amusing effect of the acts themselves.

Jack was thoroughly original, and his originality in music, which
accompanied these performances, added much to them; for, contrary to the
custom of many small boys when practising clog dancing, instead of
whistling Jack furnished his music by singing, in a rich brogue, bits of
improvised rhyme that he seemed to compose for the occasion. Many of
them were very funny, and possessed the originality and wit
characteristic of his nationality, which added much to the whole
performance.

Fred soon made the acquaintance of the "Jolly Scourer," and had many
good laughs at his jokes, which often lightened the monotony of routine
work. He moreover did our young hero many acts of kindness, and in a
certain matter proved of great service to him.

Time passed by with Fred in his factory life not altogether
unpleasantly, and as he saw no chance of getting into a store again very
soon, he concluded that the best thing for him to do was to gain every
point possible relative to woolen manufacture, and especially to the
finishing department, in which he had commenced his mill career.

Consequently he bent his energies to this purpose. Whatever was to be
learned by observation and by questioning he was fast finding out. When
he first ventured out into the wet gig room, he saw there numerous
machines, the working of which was a curiosity which he wished to have
explained; and after carefully examining them he hastened back to the
little humpback, where he felt confident he could get the desired
information. Said he:

"Carl, what are those great tall machines in the second room beyond us,
that have the large cylinders?"

"They are gigs--wet gigs."

"And what are they for?"

"They are to raise a nap on the cloth."

"How do they do that?"

"Well, that cylinder is covered with handles. You know what handles are,
I s'pose?"

"I know something about some kind of handles, but I guess not of this
kind."

"They are long iron frames about seven feet long, half an inch thick,
and just wide enough to take in two teasels, one on top of the other so
as to make two rows of them the whole length of the handle."

"And this iron frame filled with teasels is called a 'handle'?"

"Yes."

"But what are teasels?"

"They are the burrs of a plant something like a thistle. They are about
the size of a small egg, only not quite so large around, and they do not
taper so much, though one end is a little larger than the other. They
have sharp points, sort of like hooks, which all turn down toward the
stem, so you can run your hand over them one way and the points won't
hurt; but if you pull your hand back they dig right to the flesh."

"Oh, I know now, I saw a lot of them up stairs the other day and
wondered for what they were used here. Seems to me they are queer
things to use on cloth. Wouldn't something like a card with iron tacks
be better, and last longer?"

"No, I guess not. Probably anything like that would tear the cloth, and
I believe all of the mills use teasels. You see they would use what is
best."

"Yes, I suppose so," added Fred thoughtfully; "but tell me about the gig
and how they use this little prickly thing."

"Well, as I said, these frames filled with teasels are called handles,
and as the gig cylinders are covered all over with handles, it makes
kind of a solid bed of teasels. The cylinder whirls one way, and the
cloth, which is drawn close against it, goes the other."

"I should think the sharp points would dig into the cloth, and tear it
the same as wire points would."

"You see the gig is going so fast they don't get hold much, and then
they are not strong enough to tear it at once, but will wear it out
rather fast if too much pressure is put upon it. Those gigs out there
don't hurt it much, though, for they use old handles and the teasels are
broken down a good deal."

"Where are they used first, if they are old?"

"Up stairs on the dry gigs."

"What! Is it gigged up there, too?"

"Oh, yes; on two different gigs. Haven't you seen the great square iron
framed machines with two cylinders and two men tending them?"

"No, I think not. I don't believe I have been into that room yet."

"Well, the cloth is gigged there on the big machines the first thing
after it leaves the fulling mills and washers."

"How long do they run it up there?"

"They run it quite a while in all the different processes it goes
through. After it is gigged the first time then it is cropped."

"Cropped, you say?" exclaimed Fred, laughing. "Well, you have me again,
for I am sure I don't know what that means."

"Why, it means sheared--cutting off the nap which the teasels dig
up--only they don't call it 'sheared' the first two times."

"How many times is it sheared, I wonder!"

"'Bout four or five times, I think; twice on the cropper, and twice or
three times on the finishing shears. As I said before, it is run on the
big gig first and then is cropped. After this process is completed, it
runs on another dry gig of the same shape as the wet ones, and is
cropped again. Then it is placed on to the wet gigs where you saw it."

"I should think it would be all worn out if it is run so long against
those sharp teasels, besides having the nap sheared off several times.
How long do they keep it on the gigs?"

"It does get spoiled sometimes; I have seen plenty of pieces with the
face of the cloth all gigged through. It tears the filling all out and
leaves the warp. The cloth runs on each gig till a good nap is worked
up."

"That would be a good many hours in all, I suppose, but I don't see the
use of gigging it so much as to spoil the cloth. It won't wear very
well, will it?"

"Yes, but they gig it so as to get an extra fine finish, and make it
smooth and handsome. And then there are what they call the steam gigs.
It is run on them, and besides this it is gigged several times on the
back, both on dry and wet gigs."

"What! Is there still another kind of gig?" asked Fred, beginning to get
incredulous.

"No, they are just the same as the ones you saw, only they run the cloth
through them after it is steamed, so the boys call them the 'steam
gigs.'"



XXIV.


"Are the steam gigs wet ones, too?" asked Fred.

"Yes, and they use the oldest handles of any, because this is the last
time the cloth is gigged, and it won't stand much scraping. After it
leaves these gigs it goes to the drier, and then goes back up stairs."

"When it goes back up there, I suppose it goes through a dozen or two
more processes, does it not?"

"Well, it goes through quite a number. I believe it is sheared the first
thing, and then it has to be brushed and sheared again."

"What kind of a thing is a shear, any way, such as is used for shearing
the nap from cloth? I can't imagine how it works, though I have often
wished to see it in operation."

"I don't believe I can tell you so you will understand it. You had
better go up and see for yourself."

"You can give me an idea about it. I don't want to go up there now
without showing some better reason than curiosity. Mr. Farrington might
think it queer, and get an idea that I am neglecting my work, as he said
Tim Short did."

"All right, then; I'll tell you the best I can. I used to think myself,
when I heard father talking about the shears, that they must be
something like mother's shears, only with great long blades; but I found
I was mistaken. The shears up stairs are about seven feet long; you see
they have to be as long as the cloth is wide. They have iron frames, and
I guess are five feet high. There is a roller on the back side and
another on the front. On the top and front of the machine is a steel
plate which runs the whole length of the shear. This plate has a square
edge, and the cloth passes over it from one roller to the other. It is
drawn tight when it goes over the steel plate, and there is what I
believe they call a cylinder that has sharp knives upon it. They call
them knives, but they are like strips of sharp steel fastened on to the
cylinder. They are 'bout half an inch high, and run the whole length of
the cylinder in a spiral way, just the same as I would wind a string
round this stick from bottom to top, if every time the string went round
it was an inch from where it went round before.

"Well, you see--these strips of steel go round like that, only they are
a good deal straighter and are 'bout two inches apart. They call these
strips the knives and grind them just like any other shears. The way
they do this is by running the cylinder the wrong way and holding a
piece of stone against them. This gives them a sharp edge. This cylinder
is let down so close to the steel plate that there isn't room for the
cloth to pass between it and the cylinder without having the face or nap
sheared off by the sharp knives of the cylinder that is going round like
lightning. That's 'bout all there is to it. Do you get any idea how it
works?"

"Oh, yes; I think I see how it is. As the cloth passes over the plate
one way, the cylinder whirls the other and clips off the nap. I
understand now why a knot in the back of the cloth would do so much
harm. As it passes over the plate 'twould raise the cloth up so as to
cut a hole in the face of it; but when you told me about it the other
day I thought a little thing like that didn't amount to much."

"Yes, that's right," responded Carl, with a pleased look on finding his
explanation had proved successful. "I have told you a little about
nearly all the processes of finishing cloth. I may as well tell the
rest. Oh, I forgot to tell you how the cloth is brushed. Well, it is
done by machinery. The brush itself is a roller about six inches
through, and the same length as the shear cylinder. The bristles are put
into the roller all over it, so it is just like any brush, only round.
The cloth runs on the brushing machine about the same as on the shear,
and the brush that is let down on to the cloth revolves with an awful
speed--so fast that it appears to be like a smooth piece of iron or
wood. I tell you it takes the dust out and straightens out the nap in
good shape."

"I should think it would," said Fred; and then added, in a humorous
vein, "I would like to run my clothes through a machine like that; and I
don't know but myself too, after working all day in this stifling dust.
I wonder if it would clean our jackets? I rather think they would have
to run through more than once to remove so many flocks."

"Oh! there is a brush up where the handles are brushed that is just the
thing for our jackets. I have brushed mine there a good many times."

"Where the handles are brushed? Why, what is the object in brushing
them?"

"The teasels fill all up with the nap that they dig out of the cloth, so
they are only run a little while at a time before they are changed and
clean ones put into the gigs. Then those that are taken off are brushed
so that the nap almost all comes off and leaves the handles clean again.
Didn't you notice that light stuff that we put into the wet grinder?
Well, that is what comes off from the handles. It is made into flocks,
pieces of teasels and all."

"Yes, I have seen it, and meant to ask you before where it came from. I
suppose that is where the profit is made, in allowing as little to waste
as possible. Well, go on with the finishing business."

"There isn't much more to be told about it. The cloth goes from the
brush to presses where it is pressed with steam and by machinery of some
kind that is awful powerful. The cloth is folded first into single
width, and then it is folded the other way, so that it is about a yard
square. A piece of stiff, smooth paper is placed between each fold. The
cloth stays in the press quite a long time, and when it is taken out it
is ready to be shipped to New York or wherever it is to go."

Fred expressed his gratitude to Carl for furnishing him so much
information, and felt that, having gained considerable theoretical idea
of finishing cloth, he could the more rapidly accumulate such knowledge
as might be of valuable service to him.

Fred received a charming little note from Nellie, thanking him over and
over again for the sweet flowers he had sent her. "Such a delightful
surprise," she said, "and to think you should be so thoughtful of me and
so very, very kind when you think I deserted you in your trouble. I
cannot understand you under these circumstances, but I hope some time
you will tell me your motive in returning good for evil, as I know you
feel you have done."

The note made him rather happy at first, but as he studied it more
carefully it somewhat chilled him.

"'Some time' she hopes I may tell her my motive, not very soon; the
'some time' sounds a good away off," he mused. "I wonder why this is!
Perhaps she wants to wait and see if I am innocent of all that still
seems against me before she will invite me to call, or even meet me."

This seemed so probable to him that he felt like punishing himself for
having acted so impulsively.

In the mean time Matthew, among others, learned of Fred's sending the
flowers, and heard that Nellie was much pleased at receiving them. This
galled him severely, especially as she had refused to see him when he
called. With all he had done to injure Fred, and with all of his efforts
to please her, he feared that his rival was still more of a favorite
with her than himself, though the former was now but a factory boy.

He felt exceedingly bitter and tempted to play even a bolder game than
he had thus far done.

"But what can it be?" he said to himself. "I have already tried to
waylay him, and failed. I got the bartender to drug him and make him
drunk, thinking that would keep him down. But no! He was discharged on
this account, and I thought he was disgraced, but still he was not put
down. I even----" but here he shrank from repeating even to himself this
terrible act, and buried his face in his hands in deep thought--defeated,
dejected, and miserable.



XXV.


For a time everything at the factory ran well, and Fred turned off his
work quite as satisfactorily as could have been expected, since he was a
new hand and unaccustomed to the duties. He learned them readily,
however, but not soon enough to escape the fault finding of Christopher
Hanks, who seemed to delight in making it uncomfortable for the boys, as
he was one of those disagreeable and contemptible men who take delight
in tyrannizing over those below them in authority, especially if they
are boys, and consequently not able to match them in strength and
courage.

It is just possible, however, that Christopher overestimated his own
powers in this latter respect, or still more probable that he had a
decidedly faulty conception of our young friend's muscular development,
as may hereafter be shown.

Fred had the good sense, however, to keep from having any trouble with
him on first going into the mill, as he was already under a cloud, and
he knew that it would be for his advantage to submit for a time to what
was anything but agreeable to one of his spirit. "A fuss with Hanks at
this time," thought he, "might turn Mr. Farrington against me, and then
I should have no strong friend left."

Fred looked upon Mr. Farrington as one who would do everything possible
to help him advance and aid him in re-establishing his innocence. It may
as well be said here that this latter consideration was more to him than
anything else, for he felt most keenly the attitude of many of his
former friends whenever he chanced to meet them. Moreover, he hoped to
be promoted as soon as a vacancy should occur, provided he conducted
himself so as to merit it.

For these several reasons Fred put up with the mean treatment of Hanks,
that he might become well established before asserting his manliness and
independence.

He did the heavy work that really belonged to Hanks, so that Carl might
escape it. He did even more than had been done by either boy before he
came, for the carrying of the cloth had been imposed upon him. Fred did
not know this for some time, until Jack Hickey, the "Jolly Scourer,"
said to him one day:

"Me b'y, why do ye let that ould spalpane crowd ye so?"

"Why, what do you mean?" inquired young Worthington, who wanted to draw
out his friend of the Emerald Isle.

"I mane about luggin' the cloth. Sure, an' no b'y but ye has ever done
it."

"I thought it was a part of my work; he told me to do it the first
morning I came in, and no one ever spoke to me about it before."

"Oh, by St. Patrick, he'd loaf on ye if he could--the old sour mouth."

This opened Fred's eyes still further, and when he saw Carl he said to
him:

"Why didn't you tell me that it wasn't my work to lug the cloth down?"

"Because Mr. Hanks told me that he was going to make you do it, and
threatened me if I told you; and I didn't want to do anything to
displease him."

"Well, it is all right; I am glad you didn't do anything to make him
treat you worse, but there may be a time ahead for a reckoning between
him and me. I know of other tricks of his, and I'll make good use of my
information when the time comes."

"I hope you won't have a fuss with him and leave the flockers. My work
is so much easier now," replied Carl anxiously.

"Oh, no; I guess I won't leave them right away," returned Fred. "I am
glad if you are getting along better than you did before I came."

"Oh, yes, I am; and my back isn't so lame now I don't lift any; but I
don't seem to get strong. It seems as if I couldn't do the heavy work
anymore if I tried."

"I am indeed sorry," said Fred sympathetically, "but I hope you don't
get so tired as you did. If you do not, and think you are strong enough,
I would like to have you come up to my house evenings and study with me.
I think you spoke as if you would like a better education. I thought
that night, after we were talking about it, that I would ask you to do
this, and I have been waiting for you to get stronger; but you have
looked so tired all the time that I kept putting off speaking about it
till now."

As the little cripple thought of the previous kind acts of Fred, and
listened to his new proposal to teach him, his eyes grew moist with
gratitude, and a crystal drop stole down his thin, pale cheek. He said
nothing for a moment or two, but that silent tear meant more to our
young friend than words could have expressed. It seemed to him that at
no time in his life had his own heart been so large and his sympathy for
others so great.

Presently Carl replied:

"Oh, I should be so glad of such a chance, but I am afraid it would
trouble you too much."

"No, that's nothing. It would do me good to review my studies, and,
moreover, I should find a pleasure in feeling that I was really doing
you a good turn."

"Then I will try it, and I hope I can hold out, for if I could only get
an education I think I could find some lighter work to do that would be
better for me. I don't feel very strong now, but I hope I can stand it.
When shall I commence?"

"You may come any evening."

"You are at home every night, are you?"

"Yes, every evening except Sunday--then I go to church."

"I should think you would go out with the boys and have some fun."

"I can't do that and study too."

"Do you study now? I thought you were a good scholar."

"Yes; I have not missed an evening since I came into the mill."

"What are you studying?"

"I am studying mathematics and practising penmanship most of the time.
They will be most useful to me if ever I get into business."

"I am afraid it would be too much trouble, then, for you to teach me."

"Oh, don't worry about that. I have plenty of books, too, that you can
use, so you need not buy any," said Fred, wishing to encourage his
friend as much as possible, though he well knew that his offer would be
no little inconvenience to himself.

In the course of a few evenings Carl asked his uncle, after they had
finished supper, if he could go over to Mr. Worthington's for a little
while; and after receiving a favorable answer he went up stairs and put
on another suit. It was the best the poor boy had, though the coat
fitted him badly, owing to his deformity. All the garments, moreover,
were made from inexpensive material, and had been in service so long
that they showed much wear.

Those of my readers who know nothing of poverty, or even want, would
doubtless consider a suit of this kind almost unfit for gunning or
fishing; but as it was the only dress suit which Carl had, he kept it
neat and clean. He put on a white collar, a well worn blue necktie, and
thus attired was soon on his way to his friend's house.



XXVI.


Fred found, much to his surprise, that Carl was something of a scholar,
as he could read well and write a very fair hand. He had thoroughly
mastered an elementary arithmetic, learning all of the tables and rules
so as to apply them readily and correctly.

"When did you learn so much about mathematics?" asked Fred. "You have
had no teacher."

"Well, I got a little idea of it before going into the mill, enough so
that I managed to work my way through the book after getting around
again from my sickness. Since then I have been through the book so many
times that I know it almost by heart."

"Why didn't you get a more advanced book, instead of spending so much
time on this one?"

"That is just what I wanted, but couldn't buy one."

"Almost any one would have given or lent you one, the same as I am going
to let you use my books. It is too bad that you have been kept back for
the want of suitable books; but what you have been over you have
learned so thoroughly that it is worth about as much to you as if you
had been through several higher arithmetics, and knew none of them well.
Have you ever studied geography?"

"No, I have not, and that is just the book I want to study most, for I
would like to know something about the world. Have you a geography?"

"Yes, I have two that I am done using. It is an interesting study. I
used to like to draw maps." And opening his desk--which, by the way,
Fred had made himself--he took out a large number of well executed maps,
and showed them to Carl, in whose eyes shone a gleam of admiration as he
looked them over, and said, almost incredulously:

"You didn't make them, did you? And with a pen, too? Why! they look like
boughten ones."

"Yes, I made them all with a pen and different kinds of ink; that
shading is all pen work, too. It is easy enough after one gets the hang
of it. The greatest trouble is to get just the right shape to the maps,
and to have everything in the right proportion."

"I should think that would be hard enough, but these letters are what
stick me. They are exactly like print."

"Oh, they are easy; I learned to print a long time ago. It is much
easier than good penmanship, for it is slow, while writing is done much
faster, so it takes a lot of practice to get the knack of it; but I like
it and can do pretty good work now. Here are some of my cards and a
little flourishing work, and this is what I am doing now"--showing Carl
a set of books on which he had been at work in his bookkeeping.

Again the little cripple was greatly interested to see the handsome work
before him--for handsome it was, as Fred, by dint of much practice, had
become a superior penman.

"I never saw such good writing," said Carl; "only what our writing
master used to do, when I went to school, and he didn't do any of these
birds either. Where did you learn to do it?"

"I learned it right here. You or anybody could do it by practising
enough."

"I wish I had known that before, then I could have practised when I had
no books to study; but I thought nobody could learn to write much
without a teacher."

"You were mistaken there; a good copy and plenty of the right sort of
practice will make any one a good penman. But what would you like to
study most? Tell me what you want to fit yourself for, then I will tell
you what I think will do you the most good."

"I would like to get so I could keep books. There is a place in the
finishing room where an account of the cloth and shipping is kept. It is
easy work, and pays well. I thought, perhaps, if I could only do the
work, I might some time get that job, or some good place outside of the
mill."

"Yes, that would, perhaps, be the best thing for you; so I should think
you had better practise penmanship, bookkeeping, and spelling. You know
about enough of mathematics already for keeping ordinary accounts. The
bookkeeping won't amount to very much to you in itself, but while you
are at work at that you will be gaining in the other two, and will get
used to the forms. You wanted to study geography, but you had better let
that go till you get fitted for a better position; then you can take it
up at leisure."

Fred now procured pen and paper for Carl, and set about instructing him
in penmanship. The little cripple was so much pleased with his kind
treatment that his gratitude was plainly expressed in his face, and he
commenced his task with all a boy's enthusiasm. As he carefully copied
the letters before him, his mind doubtless looked forward to the time
when he would rise above his present position in life and approach
nearer to the goal of his ambition.

The next morning Carl did not put in an appearance at the regular hour.
Time went by and still he did not come. This left Christopher Hanks'
force one hand short, and obliged him to do a good amount of work
himself to enable him and Fred to keep all the machines running.

He was quite out of sorts this morning, and Carl's absence, together
with the extra work, made him irritable, cross, and overbearing. Fred
endured this disagreeable mood for a while, but at last it grew
intolerable to him, so when Hanks ordered him in an insolent tone to
bring down more cloth he refused point blank.

Hanks fell into a rage and acted as if he would like to smash things
generally, and Fred in particular, but he very sensibly kept a good
distance from the latter, who had little regard for such a scraggy, ill
tempered individual.

"So you refuse to do yer work?" demanded Hanks excitedly.

"No, sir, I do not," replied Fred firmly.

"Then will you bring them bundles down?"

"No, sir."

"That's your work," said Hanks, cooling down at Fred's determined tone
and manner.

"That is not my work, though you have imposed it upon me since I have
been here."

"I'm boss of this here job, and what I tell yer to do is fur yer to
'tend to. Ef yer don't mind me I'll have yer discharged," said Hanks,
trying to intimidate our young friend.

"I would like to see you have me discharged for not doing your work,"
said Fred defiantly. "I have found out all about this business, and just
what I am supposed to do."

Hanks saw that he was foiled, that Fred had the advantage of him, and
that he had better let the matter drop as easily as possible, or he
might find himself in trouble if Fred should take it to Mr. Farrington.
It suddenly occurred to him that he was needed up in the other room, and
he withdrew hastily. As he turned to go he noted the evident pleasure
pictured on Jack Hickey's face at his own discomfiture and Fred's
triumph.

"Good, me b'y!" said the jolly Irishman to our young friend. "I told ye
not to stand the old spalpane's thricks."

"I don't mean to any longer," replied Fred.

"Ye has a dale of sparit, for sure. I knowed it all the time, but bedad
and I thought it wad never start."

"Now it has started I'll keep it up so far as Hanks is concerned,"
replied our hero, as he took a basket under his arm and started for a
supply of flocks.

Hanks managed to avoid him the remainder of the forenoon. No further
crash therefore occurred between them during that time. That the scraggy
old man was thoroughly angry there was no doubt--angry at Fred's triumph
over him, and most angry at poor little Carl for remaining away, and as
Hanks believed, for telling what he had forbidden him to disclose to
Fred.

About three o'clock in the afternoon Carl came in, pale and sick, but
much better than in the morning, when despite all his efforts he could
not summon strength enough to go to his work. Fred was in the drying
room at the time, and Hanks was up after a roll of cloth. He had just
brought down two, and was struggling to get an exceedingly large roll
upon his shoulder. This he succeeded in doing after one or two failures,
that caused the hands standing near to laugh at him, and make irritating
remarks, as is their custom on such occasions.

All this had its maddening effect upon him, and it so happened that one
of the employees had just taken up the stairs a bucket filled with soft
soap, and had accidentally spilled some on the three top stairs. Hanks
now came along with the roll of cloth, twice his own size, upon his
shoulder--an awkward load to handle--and started to descend. He slipped
on the first step, and in trying to regain his footing tripped himself,
and tumbled, bumped, and rolled all the way to the bottom of the stairs.

The cloth kept along with him. At one time he was on the top of the
roll, and at another it seemed to have the better of him. At any rate
they stuck by each other, and landed well out on the floor side by
side.

Jack Hickey indulged in a characteristic shout. All the employees in the
room gathered around and laughed in a manner that must have been very
tantalizing to one in Hanks' plight.

Just then Fred came in and joined the crowd. The old man saw him, and
fire almost flashed from his eyes. His two front teeth, that so annoyed
our hero by hanging loose and waving back and forth, now seemed to shake
as if worked by an electric motor.

He picked himself up, white with rage, and parting company with his roll
of cloth, rushed into his corner beneath the stairs beside the flockers.

The first object that caught his eye was Carl. Hanks rushed at him like
a madman, and catching him around the throat, pushed him roughly against
a hard iron frame and demanded to know why he dared to disobey his
orders in telling what he had been forbidden to mention.

The little cripple cried out with fear and pain, injured as he was by
Hanks' revengeful act. Fred had now made his way to the flockers, and
the half stifled cry was the first intimation he had had of Carl's
presence. He rushed at once to his assistance, and grappled with the
boy's assailant.

A fierce struggle now ensued. Hanks' blood was up. He was almost like a
wild man, and his strength was nearly doubled. At first our young friend
was hardly a match for the maddened man. They rolled and tumbled, first
one seeming to gain the supremacy and then the other.

The old man struggled desperately to win the contest. He struck Fred a
telling blow on the nose that made the blood flow copiously and added
horror to the scene. But this did not weaken our hero's courage. It
rather strengthened his determination and purpose. The fire flashed from
his eyes; all the force of his well trained physique was at his command,
and with a powerful effort he hurled his antagonist to the floor and
fell upon him.

Still the struggle went on, but soon Hanks' strength began to fail him,
and when he felt himself overpowered by Fred's superior skill and
strength he begged for mercy.

But he did not need to do this, as Fred would certainly much sooner have
been severely punished himself than have struck his antagonist while
down, however much contempt he might feel for him.

Jack Hickey and a few others now gathered around and interfered in the
interest of peace. They saw that Fred had won the fight and was master
of the situation. Each contestant was covered with blood, and presented
a pitiable sight.

Just then Mr. Farrington happened to be passing through the room on his
round of inspection, and attracted by those gathered at the flockers he
hurried there also, to learn the cause of the excitement.



XXVII.


The overseer was amazed--could hardly believe his own eyes, when he saw
the strange spectacle before him.

"What does this mean?" he asked sharply.

"I have been assaulted--brutally assaulted," whined Hanks.

"And you assaulted him?" he said sternly, turning to Fred.

"I have done nothing without good cause," replied Fred.

"See, he don't deny it," put in Hanks.

"No, I don't deny it, if defending a little cripple against your abuse
and cruel treatment is an assault," answered our hero in a way that
carried conviction to the overseer.

"Abuse and cruel treatment!" repeated Mr. Farrington.

"Yes; here is Carl. He can tell the story," replied our young friend.

"Why, my boy, are you sick? What makes you look so pale?" asked Mr.
Farrington, with feeling, as Carl stepped toward him, hardly able to
stand.

"I do feel a little faint," he said, catching hold of Fred's hand for
support.

"Have you been injured by that man?" asked the kind hearted overseer,
pointing with scorn at Hanks.

"Oh, I don't know why he did it. I didn't disobey him," replied the
little cripple, with tears in his eyes.

The tone of his voice, his tears, and whole manner touched Mr.
Farrington deeply.

"What did he do to you?" he asked.

Carl told the story in substance as I have already given it.

"I regret seriously that anything of this kind should have happened,"
said Mr. Farrington to our hero, "but I admire the spirit and bravery
you have shown in defending this poor boy;" and turning to Hanks he gave
him a withering rebuke, and discharged him on the spot. "Come to my
desk," continued the indignant overseer, "and get a bill of your time,
and never show your head in my department again."

Hanks saw that further argument would be of no use to him. He
consequently gathered up his effects with as much celerity as possible,
and after washing the blood stains from his face and hands, and casting
upon Fred a parting glance of hatred and revenge, he left the room amid
the jeers and taunts of all the workmen.

Fred found himself the hero of the hour. The news spread through the
mill with almost incredible rapidity. His defense of the poor cripple
touched the hearts of the operatives.

Carl's uncle told the story of Fred's kindness to his nephew, as well as
his offer to teach him. Everybody in the mill talked the matter over,
and perhaps magnified to some extent Fred's bravery and noble hearted
conduct.

A little incident often turns the tide of popular opinion. This act
turned it most effectually in Fred's favor, and he was now lionized by
all the factory people.

The report was not long in finding its way throughout the village. Our
young friend's name was in the mouth of almost every one. He was
discussed and rediscussed as one only can be in a small village, where
little happens of general interest to form a theme of conversation. With
few exceptions, the verdict of popular opinion was flattering to him.
The manner of almost every one changed toward him as if by magic.

Those people who had but a few days before cast suspicious, knowing
glances at him, as if to say, "I know your record," were now most
cordial and painstaking to try and impress him with a sense of their
friendship and their admiration for his bravery and manly conduct.

Fred now thought that he could see his way back to his old position
among his friends, and the hope made him happy.

He wondered what Nellie thought of him now, and whether his act that had
won the praise of so many had placed him in a better light before her
eyes. How much he wanted to see her and receive her praise! A single
word from her would have been more highly prized than the most
flattering compliments of twenty others.

Shortly after Mr. Farrington returned to his desk from the scene at the
flockers, Jacob Simmons entered the factory and approached him.

"Can you give me a job?" said he meekly. "I have finished my fall work,
and would like to get in here during the cold weather."

"Yes, I want a man at once."

"I'm your man, then," returned Jacob hopefully.

"Can you commence work now? I have just discharged a man, and must put
some one in his place, or the work will fall behind."

"Sho! How fortunate!"

"Fortunate for you, you mean?"

"That's it; that's it exactly."

"But you have not answered my question. Can you commence work at once?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you may have the position."

Jacob looked happy.

"You may come with me," continued Mr. Farrington, as he led the way
through the long hall and down the stairs to the flockers. "I have a
bright boy who will teach you the duties of the position."

"That will help out, but I shan't be long in learning," replied Jacob.

They had now reached the flockers.

"Here is your assistant," said Mr. Farrington, as Fred came up from
behind one of the machines. "I presume you know each other well."

Jacob took a step back involuntarily, and the color seemed to leave his
face, as if terrified at our hero's sudden and unexpected appearance
before him.

"Why, don't you know him?" asked the overseer, observing Mr. Simmons
hesitate.

"Oh, I see now, it is Fred Worthington," replied Jacob, regaining his
self possession.

"Yes, and you will find him a valuable assistant. Fred, I wish you to
teach Mr. Simmons the duties of his position. I will come down again
before the closing hour," he continued, as he turned to go up stairs,
"and see how you get along with the work."



XXVIII.


Little Carl was fairly prostrated by the shock received from Hanks'
abusive treatment.

Mr. Farrington, noticing this, very kindly sent for his carriage, and
had him taken to his uncle's house. After learning from Fred something
of the boy's circumstances, and more fully of Hanks' cruelty to him, he
dispatched a messenger to Dr. Dutton, requesting him to call and examine
Carl, and administer such treatment as the case required.

The doctor found him very nervous, and so weak that he seemed almost
exhausted. His aunt explained that he had been growing weaker for some
time past, and that his extra exertion the previous night in going to
Fred's house and studying was too much for him. The physician gave him a
mild sedative to quiet his nerves, and then left him for the night.

The next day he called again, and found the boy feverish and complaining
that his back was sensitive and painful.

"I am afraid he will have a fever," said Dr. Dutton to Mr. Farrington,
when he called later in the day to learn of the boy's condition.

"I hope not, doctor," returned the latter; "but give him your best
treatment. I have a great deal of sympathy for him now I know the sad
story of his life."

"I shall certainly give him careful attention," answered the doctor,
"but he has little strength to build on. Has his work been hard?"

"Not since Fred Worthington has been in the mill with him. Fred, I am
informed, did much of the boy's work to help him along."

"I have heard a good deal of praise bestowed upon Fred for defending the
little fellow from abuse," remarked the doctor.

"And it is justly due him, too. He is a brave and manly fellow--is
Fred."

"I am glad to hear you speak well of him; but I thought he was a ruined
boy, and guilty of several damaging charges."

"They are all groundless, I believe," replied Mr. Farrington earnestly;
"and I am surprised to find that you fall in with the general opinion
without inquiring as to his guilt or innocence."

"There isn't a chance for much doubt about that drunken affair, as he
came to my house thoroughly intoxicated, and I took care of him for a
time and then carried him home. Did you know of that?"

"Yes; I knew of it some time ago; but do you know how he came to go to
your house? That's the point to get at!"

"No, I do not. It has been a mystery to me ever since, but I never felt
like asking him about it."

"You would, perhaps, be surprised to know who was the means of getting
him drunk, and that the same fellow led him in that state to your door,
purposely to disgrace him."

"You astonish me, Mr. Farrington. But tell me about it; perhaps I have
judged the boy hastily. Who was the culprit?"

"I will tell you, with the understanding that you shall not repeat it,
for it's Fred's wish that it shall not become known until the young
scoundrel shows his own guilt by telling it."

"I promise to say nothing to any one."

"The culprit was Matthew De Vere."

"Who? Matthew De Vere! Impossible!"

"No, not impossible at all. Indeed, I haven't the slightest doubt of it.
I have the story straight, and know from Dave all the circumstances that
led to the result."

It is not strange that the doctor was surprised and annoyed at this
unexpected revelation, and it had more than ordinary significance to
him, also, for this reason: he was fully aware of Matthew's decided
preference for the society of his daughter Nellie. Of course, it was
but a boyish fancy at most; but what might not grow out of it? Did he
not, in fact, during his own school-days, form an attachment for one who
afterwards became his wife?

In view of this, was it not rather a source of secret satisfaction to
look ahead to the possibility of his daughter's future? Matthew's father
was the most wealthy man in town, and president of the bank in which the
doctor held a large amount of stock. Matthew would probably succeed his
father in a few years, and would not only be very rich, but would be
connected with a very desirable business--that of banking.

Dr. Dutton, like almost every other man, would have been proud to have
his daughter become the wife of a wealthy and promising young man, and,
so far as he knew, Matthew bade fair to become such. To be sure, people
said he was a little wild, but that would wear away.

"He, of course, like many other boys, had to sow a few wild oats," said
the doctor to himself, when he had been thinking of the subject, "but he
will come out all right."

Herein the doctor erred in his judgment, for the sowing of "wild oats,"
so called, is never safe; and it has been the dangerous license granted
to thousands and thousands of boys which has caused their ruin.

Whatever a boy practises becomes after a time a habit; and the rooting
up of such a habit is a matter that requires no little attention and
force of will. The average person finds himself unable to grapple
successfully with what has at last become a second nature, thus proving
beyond peradventure that it is never safe to tamper with anything that
is evil.

I would not wish to give the impression that Dr. Dutton knew how corrupt
Matthew was. He simply overlooked the boy's evil tendency; but when he
came to listen to Mr. Farrington's story, which went into the details
and related in full all that occurred in the barroom, and then described
the contemptibly mean trick of enticing Fred to his house with the
promise of entering with him, it put quite another face on the matter.
Moreover, it raised Fred to a height in the doctor's estimation which
contrasted strongly with the depth to which Matthew sank.



XXIX.


Jacob Simmons had received his first lesson at his new employment.
Fred's ready way of imparting instruction did much to facilitate his
progress. After the cloth had been placed on the machine and everything
fixed for a long run, Fred left him to watch it and keep it in its
proper place, while he went up to the other room to give attention to
that portion of the business.

Once alone he had a chance to think, unhindered by the presence of any
one.

"What does it all mean?" he said to himself. "Mr. Simmons actually
turned pale when he saw me--seemed stunned for a minute. Yes, he even
stepped back as if he were afraid of me. There must be some cause for
this," he meditated, "and I do wonder what it is."

The idea clung to him. The more he thought upon it and studied the man,
the more he became impressed that something was wrong--that Mr. Simmons
for some reason dreaded meeting him. What this cause could be was the
question to be solved.

Not many days after Jacob commenced work in the factory, Fred made a
discovery that at once aroused his suspicions and turned his thoughts in
quite another direction, for previously he had believed that Jacob's
aversion to him was due to some personal matter; but now he had a clue
that led to a different belief, and one that might clear up a great
mystery which had not long since thrown its shadow over himself.

"Do you know Mr. Simmons yet?" asked Fred of Jack Hickey.

"Well, I spakes to him now an' thin. But why do ye ask, me b'y?"

"I want you to do me a favor."

"Sure an' I will do that inny time for ye."

"Thank you, Jack. I want you to borrow Mr. Simmons' knife and manage to
keep it till I can see it, but don't breathe a word of this to him or
anyone."

Jack promised secrecy, and went about making friends with Mr. Simmons.
In due time he secured the knife, and when Jacob was out of the room,
called Fred to him and handed him the desired article.

Our hero's face lighted up triumphantly as he took it and examined it
closely.

"The very one," he exclaimed. "I knew it the minute I saw it in his
hands," referring to Mr. Simmons.

"Is ye crazy?" asked Jack. "By St. Patrick, ye act as if ye had found an
ould friend."

"Yes--or--I mean it is just the knife I want," answered Fred, coloring
and trying to show less concern. "I wish you would buy it for me. I will
pay whatever he asks, but don't let him know I want it."

"And what fer, me b'y, do ye want it so much?"

"I cannot tell you just yet."

"And why not?"

"You shall know all about it after a while, but I must say nothing now."

"Some myshtery about it, I'd sthake my reputashen."

"Well, I surely cannot prevent your guessing about it, Jack. But don't
fail to obtain it for me."

"Sure and ye shall have it if he will take a dacent price for it."

"Don't stand on the price," said Fred, whose anxiety to procure it was
most manifest.

Jack was impressed by Fred's manner that the knife was wanted for some
important evidence, and he argued that something must be wrong or Fred
would go to Mr. Simmons himself and buy the knife if he wanted it simply
for pocket use.

His curiosity was aroused, and his ingenuity was taxed to know how to
get the knife without arousing Jacob's suspicion if there really was
any secret attached to it.

He reasoned that possession was a strong point in his favor. He had it
now, and finally decided to keep it if he could once get it home. He
thought he could easily make some excuse to gain time. He had taken a
great liking to Fred, and was willing to strain a point of propriety to
serve him, and as there was a mystery surrounding the knife he felt
impelled by his own curiosity to hold fast to it for the present.

As good luck would have it Jacob did not miss the knife before the
closing hour that night. This enabled Jack to take it home with him,
where he put it under lock and key.

The next day he apologized to Mr. Simmons for leaving it at home, spoke
of its being a superior knife, and finally touched upon the subject of
buying it.

After much parleying he succeeded in effecting a trade, but had to pay
down a handsome price. Jacob evidently felt some apprehension about
letting it go, but four dollars looked so large to him that he could not
let the offer pass unaccepted, especially as he thought he was getting
the best of the bargain.

Jack informed Fred of his success. The latter was much pleased, and
after thanking him for the favor, said:

"Now, Jack, I want you to examine the knife carefully before handing it
to me. I want to be able to prove how it came into my possession. You
may be called upon to testify that you bought it from Mr. Simmons, so
you must be able to identify it positively."



XXX.


Dr. Dutton was a wealthy man and often loaned money to his neighbors on
security. Jacob Simmons had recently built an extension to his house.
This cost more money than he expected, as is usually the case, so he
found himself cramped for funds.

He had not been in the factory long enough to draw any salary, and being
forced to raise the money, he now came to Dr. Dutton to try and get it
from him.

"What security can you give?" asked the doctor.

"I can give you my note," replied Mr. Simmons.

"With a mortgage?" suggested the doctor.

"No, I don't want to give a mortgage, but I have a certificate for two
hundred dollars' worth of stock in the Central Valley Railroad;" taking
a lot of papers from his pocket book.

"Let me see it."

"It is among some of these papers," Simmons replied, sorting them in his
lap. "Ah, here it is."

"Yes, this will do," said the doctor, after examining it closely.
"Nellie, hand me my note book," he added, turning to his daughter.

She quickly placed the book in her father's hand, and he filled out a
note for Mr. Simmons to sign. When this had been done the money was paid
over, and Jacob left the house, feeling quite elated at his success in
raising the loan so easily.

Little did he think of the position in which he had placed himself
through his careless handling of his papers, and of the trouble that
would follow, not only to himself, but to others whom he had promised to
shield.

Soon after he had gone, and the doctor had passed into another room,
Nellie raised her eyes from the book she was reading and noticed a small
piece of paper upon the floor near the chair where Mr. Simmons had sat.

She picked it up, and glancing at it hastily, saw it contained Fred
Worthington's name.

She could not refrain from reading it through, and as she read she
shuddered with fear at the thought of what might have been.

She hastened to her father and mother with the paper for them to read.

"Extraordinary!" exclaimed the doctor, although he now knew something of
Matthew De Vere's character. "Where did you get this?"

"I found it on the floor near where Mr. Simmons sat," replied Nellie.

"He must have accidentally dropped it."

"Yes, but isn't it awful?"

"It is, indeed; but there seems little doubt of its being genuine, as
here are the names signed to it. Is this Matthew's writing?"

"Yes, I think so. It looks exactly like it," replied Nellie.

"It was a bold act of villainy, and his father should know it,"
continued the doctor thoughtfully.

"I can't think Matthew is so bad as that shows," said Mrs. Dutton.

"Do you know the cause of their quarrel, Nellie?" asked her father.

She hesitated. The question was especially embarrassing to her.

"I think Matthew has some grudge against Fred," she replied, evading a
direct answer.

"I should think he must have, and for what, I wonder?"

"Fred could tell you all about it, I think, if you would have him call
this evening," said Nellie artfully, both to save further questioning
and to have a pretext for inviting him to call. "He may know something
about this paper."

"I think that would be the best plan," said Mrs. Dutton.

"Perhaps it would," answered her husband.

"I will write him a note, then, asking him to call this evening,"
ventured Nellie.

Her father nodded assent. This gave her a thrill of pleasure. At last
she could invite Fred to call and could surprise him with the facts she
had in her possession.

During the afternoon Fred received a neatly written note from Nellie,
simply asking him to call that evening. It was so brief, and so entirely
unexpected, he was puzzled to know what it meant. At any rate, he was
delighted at the thought of seeing his friend once more, and in her own
home, too--let her object be what it would.

He concluded, after much speculation, that it must be favorable, for he
could not possibly imagine why she should want him to call if it were
otherwise.

They had hardly met since the night of the party, when they parted
company at her home after a most enjoyable evening. Then each felt more
than an ordinary regard for the friendship of the other, and doubtless
little imagined that it would be so suddenly broken in upon by the
suspicious circumstances that speedily surrounded Fred. This, together
with De Vere's efforts to establish himself in Nellie's good opinion,
had separated them.

Among all the trials and misfortunes that had come upon him, Fred found
this change in Nellie's manner touched him in a way that nothing else
had done. Why this should be so, he was at a loss to know, for he had
looked upon her simply as a friend.

And with Nellie, his absence for weeks, when she had seen him almost
daily from childhood up, made her lonely. She wondered why she thought
so often of him, and why she should have felt a sense of jealousy when
he said Grace was a better friend to him than she, and again when she
called and told with such evident pleasure of Fred's triumph at the
trial.

There also were the beautiful flowers he had sent, from which she
selected a delicate white rose, which she had worn upon her breast till
it withered, and then had pressed it in a book and put it carefully away
where it would be preserved.

All these thoughts occurred to her while she was sick at heart--all
these, and many more, regarding Fred's kindness and agreeable manners.
She thought of the party, of their delightful walk home after it was
over, of the attention he had shown her and of the complimentary remark
that she "had given him the pleasantest evening of his life."

Then she wondered why she should think of these things, "for he is
nothing to me," she tried to persuade herself; but the thoughts seemed
too deeply impressed upon her mind to be driven away, and clinging as
they did they made their influence felt.

Yes, she admitted to herself that Fred's society was much more agreeable
to her than that of any of the other boys--but why? Well, she began to
suspect the cause, and if you had been her trusted friend, the one to
whom she told her secrets--if she ever did so foolish a thing--she might
have said in confidence that--well, never mind what she would have said,
for being yet but a girl of sixteen she could only have called him a
_friend_.

"Good evening, Fred. I am very glad to see you," said Nellie, as she
opened the door and he stepped in.

"I am glad to hear you say so, and I am sure this is an unexpected
pleasure to me," replied Fred, taking her proffered hand, which he
retained longer than perhaps was really necessary.

"I hope, then, you will not find the call a stupid one."

"Oh, I have no fear of that."

"You must not be too sure, Fred, for father has just been summoned to
attend a patient, and mother has a caller, so you will have to put up
with my entertainment for a while," replied Nellie, showing him into the
library.

"That will be most agreeable to me," returned Fred, taking a seat not
far from his hostess.

"I shall try and not offend you, for you are such a stranger."

"Yes, it seems an age since I have seen you, Nellie," replied our young
friend in a way that convinced her he meant every word he said.

"Has it, really?"

"It has, indeed."

"I was afraid you had almost forgotten me."

"Oh, no; I could not do that easily."

"Well, Fred, I am sure the time could not have seemed longer to you than
it has to me," replied Nellie, after a pause, and dropping her eyes as
she realized the expression she had thrown into the remark.

Fred's heart beat quicker.

"Have you really missed me?" he asked, feeling happier than he had for
weeks.

"If you doubt what I say, how can I convince you?"

"No, no, I don't doubt you now, Nellie."

"Why do you say now? Have you ever doubted my word?"

"No, I did not mean that."

"I hope you will explain, so I shall not feel uncomfortable."

Fred hesitated, hardly knowing how to reply.

"Nellie, it seems like the old days to meet you again," he finally
answered, "and I shrink from thinking of the past weeks when I could
hardly help doubting nearly every one's friendship."

"I am so sorry for you, and I hope you will forgive me for not being
more friendly," replied Nellie tenderly.

"I forgive you cheerfully, though I did feel hurt at the time."

"I saw that only too plainly by your letter, which brought me to my
senses; but it was unkind in me to do as I did."

"No, not exactly unkind, as nearly every one supposed me guilty."

"But I ought not to have been so hasty, for there are always two sides
to a question, and I did not wait to hear yours."

"You have not heard it yet, and still you overlook the charge made
against me."

"Of course I do."

"But it has never been explained away."

"Oh, that was not what troubled me, but--well, nothing ought to have
troubled me," answered Nellie, slightly confused.

"The intoxication she means," thought Fred, and the color rose to his
face.

Nellie observed this, and was sorry she had said what she did.

"As I wrote you, I could have explained it fully to you. I know what you
mean."

"I did not intend to refer to that unfortunate affair," said Nellie,
with sympathy.

"It pains me to think of it, but I shall be glad to have you understand
it."

"It was a great surprise to me, Fred, and being right here seemed awful,
but since receiving your letter I have suspected Matthew De Vere might
have had something to do with it."

"Have you thought so?"

"Yes; was I right?"

"Yes, Nellie, you were; but I did wrong in following him."

"Will you not tell me all about it?"

Fred went over the matter of his intoxication, and explained everything
truthfully, while Nellie listened with interest and astonishment.



XXXI.


Fred's story was a surprising revelation to Nellie Dutton, who now, for
the first time, saw Matthew De Vere's conduct in its true light.

"How could he be so mean?" she exclaimed.

"It was his revenge," replied Fred.

"Why did you not speak of his treachery?"

"I thought it best not to till I could get proof of it, for if I had he
would have denied it."

"He ought to have been punished."

"He will be in time, I think."

"I hope so; but that will not make up for all you have suffered. So he
was the means of your losing your position in the store?"

"Yes."

"I will never speak to him again!" said Nellie indignantly. "He is too
mean."

"I felt sure the time would come when you would say so," replied Fred.

The color came to Nellie's face.

"Yes?" she answered, after a pause.

Fred saw that she was slightly embarrassed, and knew she was thinking of
the somewhat sarcastic letter he had sent her.

"Nellie, I hope you will forget my letter," he said.

"I should be glad to, if I could."

"I am sorry I sent it."

"I am sorry you had cause to send it."

"I was hasty; but it is past now. I hope you will not let it trouble
you."

"If I will forget the letter, will you forget what caused you to send
it?"

"I shall be only too glad to do so."

"Truly?"

"Here is my hand on it."

"Shall we now be as good friends as ever?" asked Nellie, as she withdrew
her hand.

"I sincerely hope so, and--even better," he added hesitatingly.

Nellie's eyes dropped, and a sweet blush stole over her face.

"We were very good friends before, I thought," she answered.

"So we were, but--but--well, I shall prize your friendship more highly
since learning how much I missed it."

Nellie now brought her fan into requisition.

"And you will never write me any more sarcastic letters?"

"No."

Here the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Dr. Dutton.

"Ah! good evening, Fred. I am sorry to have kept you waiting so long,
but I hope Nellie has entertained you well."

Fred arose, blushed, and took the doctor's hand. Why he blushed he
didn't know, but he could feel his cheeks burn.

"Oh, yes, I have been well entertained, thank you, but I didn't realize
that I was waiting for you."

"Why, didn't Nellie tell you?"

"No, sir."

"I forgot to say you wanted to see him, we were so busy talking," put in
Nellie.

"Oh, that's it; well, all right. But, Fred, I have been hearing good
reports of you," the doctor continued.

"I am glad to know that, and I hope I merit them," replied Fred
modestly.

"I think there is no doubt of it."

"It is refreshing to hear you say so after knowing all the bad reports
that have been circulated against me during the last few weeks."

"Never mind, my boy; you have stood the fire nobly, and are surely
winning the fight."

Fred's heart leaped with joy at these reassuring words from the doctor.

"Do you think so?" he said, at length.

"There is very little doubt of it, and I think I have a surprise for
you," taking from his pocket the paper Nellie had found and placing it
in Fred's hands.

Our young hero quickly ran his eye over it, and was amazed at its
contents. It read thus:


     MAPLETON, November 17th, 187--.

     Matthew De Vere and me was waitin' near the old Booker barn
     to club Fred Worthington. Matthew hired me to help him. We
     both had a club. 'Twas 'bout twelve o'clock in the night I
     gess. Matthew sed he was goin' to get square with Fred.
     Matthew told me to strike him on the leg, and he sed he would
     do the efecktive work and fix him so he wouldn't interfear
     with him any more. When you come along we darted on you
     thinking you was Fred. I hit you a hard clip on the leg.
     Matthew was reddy to strike you on the head, but saw his
     mistake and stopped jest in time and ran away.

     (Signed) TIM SHORT.

     The above statement is true.

     MATTHEW DE VERE.

"Have you ever seen this paper before?" asked the doctor.

"No, sir, never."

"Knew nothing of it?"

"No, sir."

"You little realized, then, how near you came to being waylaid and----"
but the doctor didn't finish the sentence.

"I never had the slightest suspicion of it."

"It was a bold plot."

"And a wicked one," added Mrs. Dutton, who had now joined the group in
the library.

"But what kept you out so late that night?" asked the doctor.

Fred examined the date of Mr. Simmons' paper.

"It was the night of Grace Bernard's party."

"Yes, so it was--I remember the date now; but in going from Mr.
Bernard's to your home you could not pass the old Booker barn."

Fred's face grew suddenly red. The temperature of the room seemed to him
suffocatingly warm. He stood on one foot, embarrassed, trying to think
how to explain.

His color very strangely seemed to be reflected upon Nellie's cheeks.
Just then she appeared to be much interested in the evening paper, and
held it much nearer to her eyes than was her custom.

"You shouldn't ask so many questions," said Mrs. Dutton to her husband,
smiling at the young folks' embarrassment.

"Ah, ha! I see now. Jealousy, was it?"

"It looks like it," answered Fred comically, whereupon the doctor and
his wife laughed heartily, and, the ice being broken, Nellie and Fred
joined in the merriment, though it was at their own expense.

"Well," said the doctor seriously, "this paper records a very grave
matter. The boys should be punished."

"Why, I wonder, didn't Mr. Simmons have them punished?" asked Nellie.

"The case looks suspicious," answered her father.

"He has never reported it, or we should have heard of it," said Mrs.
Dutton.

Fred rested his head on his hand in deep thought.

"He must have had some object in getting this paper," he at length
answered. "It looks to me as though he had been bribed--been paid to
keep the matter a secret."

"That seems very probable," answered the doctor.

"Would Matthew's father have paid Mr. Simmons anything for such a
purpose?"

"No, indeed. He would be the last man imaginable to allow himself to be
fleeced in such a way."

"I thought so; but now, supposing our theory of the bribing is the
correct one, how and where could the boys have got the money to pay
him?"

"They couldn't have got it at home."

"Do you feel sure of that?"

"I am almost certain."

"Mr. Simmons could have brought a strong pressure to bear upon them."

"However strong, Mr. De Vere would never have paid one cent. But he
would have punished Matthew unmercifully."

"You have never known of his being punished?"

"No."

"Would any one outside of the family probably have known it?"

"I think so."

A theory concerning this matter had suggested itself to Fred, and he was
working it out like a young logician.

"Suppose," he continued, "Mr. Simmons should have forced the boys to do
something toward paying him, and Matthew dare not speak to his father
and mother about it, what would have been the result?"

"I can hardly imagine," returned the doctor.

"I think they would have got it from some other source by some other
means," said Nellie.

Fred's face brightened. This was the answer that seemed natural to him,
and he was pleased that Nellie should be the one to give it.

"That is my idea," he replied.

"Why, Fred, you talk exactly like a lawyer," remarked Mrs. Dutton.

"Oh, I don't know about that," he laughed, "but this paper has
strengthened a suspicion that I have had for a little time--strengthened
it so much that I feel almost convinced I am right since hearing what
the doctor says about this matter."



XXXII.


"What is your theory, Fred?" asked Dr. Dutton, with interest.

"I think I may as well take you all into my confidence," answered our
hero.

"And why not?" replied the doctor.

"Of course you will, Fred," said Nellie.

"Yes, I think you can help me in working up the case."

"We will surely do all we can," said Dr. Dutton. "But what is the nature
of your suspicion?"

"It is so grave a matter I hate to breathe it to any one till I have
further proof, therefore I must ask you all to keep it strictly
confidential."

"It shall be treated as such," replied Dr. Dutton.

"I think it probable," said Fred, "that John Rexford's store was robbed
and burned, and it is not altogether impossible that it was done to
raise this money for Mr. Simmons."

"Oh, that can't be so," returned the doctor, amazed at the thought.

"There are reasons that lead me to think so."

"And Matthew might have done it to try and injure you," put in Nellie,
as she thought how far De Vere had carried his malice.

"That might be so," replied Fred, "but I reason from the belief that
Matthew was forced to raise the money."

"Is that the only point on which you found your theory?" asked Dr.
Dutton.

"No, sir. I thought something was wrong when Jacob Simmons first met me
in the mill. He seemed fairly startled on seeing me. I decided then to
keep my eyes open. In a few days I saw him use a peculiar knife--called
a mechanic's pocket knife--which is in itself quite a kit of tools. I
managed to have Jack Hickey borrow it so I could examine it. The minute
I had it in my hands I recognized it as the very one that was in Mr.
Rexford's show case when I left his store. It was an expensive knife,
and I don't believe Simmons ever bought it.

"That is a good piece of evidence, surely," replied the doctor, "but can
you get the knife when you need it?"

"I have bought it," and he explained his method of obtaining it.
"Moreover," continued Fred, "I remember when I was tried for burning Mr.
Rexford's store, Matthew and Tim were both present. They sat together
and showed a very keen interest in the trial, and when it went in my
favor, their disappointment was plainly to be seen."

"Did it occur to you then that they possibly had anything to do with
burning the store?"

"No, but knowing what I do now, it seems to me probable. This paper
furnishes just the evidence I was waiting for."

"I admire your bold reasoning, Fred," said the physician.

"His theory seems plausible," added Mrs. Dutton, "though I can't believe
Matthew would think of doing such an act."

Fred felt much pleased at the good impression he was evidently making
upon Nellie's parents.

"I may be entirely wrong," he replied, "but I have sufficient confidence
in the idea to feel warranted in testing the matter."

"I would advise you to do so," said the doctor.

Presently Fred arose to go, and after receiving a cordial invitation
from the doctor and his wife to call often, and a cheerful good night
from Nellie, he withdrew, happy over the warm welcome given him, and
full of enthusiasm in his purpose to bring the guilty parties to
justice.

He first went home and got the knife in question, and then made his way
straight to Mr. Rexford's room, where he found him alone.

"Good evening, Mr. Rexford," said Fred heartily.

"Good evening," returned the merchant, wondering what the boy's object
could be in calling.

This was the first time they had met alone to speak since the trouble at
the store when Fred was discharged.

"I suppose you have learned nothing new relative to the cause of your
store's burning," remarked our hero.

"No, nothing."

"You were not very generous with your old clerk to have him arrested,
charged with such an act."

The merchant winced.

"I think I have a chance now to do you a favor in return for your
generosity," continued Fred.

This sarcasm cut deeply, but there was something about the boy's manner
that kept the merchant from answering angrily.

"What is it?" he at length asked.

"I have a clue that would perhaps lead to the arrest of the parties who
plundered and burned your store."

Rexford's interest was now fully aroused.

"Have you?" he asked eagerly.

"Yes, and I have sufficient evidence, I think, to warrant you in making
an arrest."

"Is it possible?"

"Yes, there is no doubt of it."

Fred now took the knife from his pocket and passed it to his former
employer.

The merchant recognized it instantly by its peculiar handle. He said, in
answer to Fred's questions, that the knife had not been sold, and that
it must have been taken from his show case the night of the fire. He
remembered showing it that evening to a customer, and distinctly
recollected putting it back into the show case.

This, then, constituted a strong piece of evidence to show that the
store was robbed.

Fred then explained how the knife came into his possession.

"You have worked up the case skilfully," said Mr. Rexford.

"I hope I have made no mistakes," answered Fred.

"You have shown care and ingenuity, and have succeeded in getting very
strong evidence. This is better than Sheriff Coombs has done."

"I have other evidence also in my possession that makes this much
stronger," replied our hero, and he showed Mr. Rexford the paper that
Nellie Dutton had found, and gave him his theory of the robbery.

"I agree with you fully. It looks very reasonable," said the merchant,
whose enthusiasm was well aroused. "I can hardly wait till morning
before taking action in the matter."



XXXIII.


Mr. Rexford was very grateful to our young friend for the trouble he had
taken in working up this case.

"It hardly seems possible, Fred, that you should do so much for me,
after being treated as you were by me," he said warmly.

"I hope I have been able to do you a favor," returned Fred sincerely;
"and besides, it may prove of service to me."

"You have, indeed, done me a favor. And is this the way you seek
revenge?"

"I think it is the best sort of revenge."

"I believe you, Fred; but very few ever practise it."

"It is more satisfactory in the end, and moreover is right."

"Very true, but it is hard to act upon such a theory. Suppose Simmons is
guilty, should I forgive him and do him a kindness?"

"That would be quite a different case. His act would be crime, and
should, therefore, be punished. You could feel sorry for him, though,
that he had acted so unwisely."

"Yes, I think you are right," answered the merchant mechanically, while
his mind seemed to be struggling with another problem.

"Fred, I have wronged you cruelly," he continued, "and your generous
spirit has touched me as nothing else has since I was a boy like
yourself. I discharged you, practically accusing you of dishonesty, but
now I know you were innocent. Your reputation was so injured that you
could get no position in a store, and were obliged to seek employment in
the factory. Then I had you arrested, charged with the grave offense of
burning my store. Can you forgive me, Fred, for having wronged you so?"

"I can and will do so cheerfully," answered our hero, "for I believe you
acted from your honest belief at the time."

"Yes, I did, but I should have had more charity, and more consideration
for your welfare."

"It was a hard blow to me, I assure you. But tell me, have you found the
missing money?" asked Fred eagerly.

"Yes. It was not lost; and the amount--eighteen dollars--was right. The
error was in making change. It was my own mistake. An eccentric old
fellow, a farmer up in Martintown, had the money--the very same twenty
dollar bill. He said he gave me a five dollar bill and I handed back the
twenty dollar bill in change."

"Farmers usually count their change very carefully."

"Yes, and it seems he counted this after he got home. He said he put the
bill by itself in his wallet to keep until he had occasion to come this
way again."

"When did you learn about it?"

"Two or three weeks ago."

"And you have known it all this time and said nothing about it?"

"Yes, Fred. Almost every day I have decided to send for you and explain
all as I am doing now, but I dreaded meeting you and kept putting it off
from day to day. I felt so guilty over my treatment of you, and so
humiliated when I found the error was my own, that I had not the courage
to tell you about it. Yet I knew all the time that I was adding more and
more to the wrong I had done you."

"I can imagine how you feel about it," said Fred, "and your apology
makes it all right. If the old farmer had returned the money earlier,
much of this trouble might have been saved. He ought to have written you
about it at any rate. It was fortunate he was an honest man; otherwise
we should never have solved the mystery, and the stain would have clung
to me always."

"Yes, Fred, I am afraid it would. But all suspicion is removed from you
now. This shows of what vital importance honesty, even in small
matters, may prove to an individual."

"I can realize that now, as it applies so forcibly to my own case."

"I hope to make amends for some of the great wrong I have done you,"
said Mr. Rexford, whose heart seemed to show a tender side which it had
not appeared hitherto to possess. "My store will be rebuilt within a few
weeks, and you shall have your old position as clerk again, if you
wish."

"You are very kind, Mr. Rexford. I am glad to know that I may work for
you again. If I come I will let you know in time."

"The position is due you, and I never had a clerk who did his work so
well. I hope you will decide to come with me," said the merchant, as
Fred rose to go.



XXXIV.


Early the following morning Mr. Rexford called upon his lawyer, Mr. Ham.
In due time the papers were made out and placed in the hands of Sheriff
Coombs, who promptly made his way to the factory with all his official
bearing and arrested Jacob Simmons on the charge of robbing and burning
John Rexford's store.

Mr. Farrington was prepared for this move, as Fred had informed him that
it would take place during the forenoon, and had also told him
everything he had done, and what he proposed doing.

He was especially glad to learn that the missing money had been
returned. His own theory was that some error had been made, but other
events had followed so fast one upon the other that he had recently made
little effort to solve the mystery.

That it should now be cleared up so satisfactorily, with all blame
removed from Fred, was gratifying to him in the extreme, for he was a
true and sincere friend of our young hero.

Mr. Simmons' surprise at seeing officer Coombs on such an errand can
hardly be imagined. Of course he had to give himself up and go with the
sheriff--a prisoner charged with a grave offense.

A hearing in his case was arranged for the following day to come before
Judge Plummer.

Mr. Simmons gave bonds for his appearance at the trial, and devoted the
rest of the day to preparing his defense with his lawyer. Wondering why
he had been arrested, and going over in his own mind every possible
cause that could lead to it, he thought of the statement which Tim and
Matthew had signed about the assault. He took his pocketbook from his
coat, and looked among his papers for it.

It was not there. He was alarmed to find it missing. He asked his wife
about it, but she knew nothing of it.

"I must have lost it somewhere," he admitted to himself with a shudder.
"Fool that I was for doing wrong. I believe it has led to my arrest, but
why I cannot understand."

When Matthew learned that Jacob Simmons had commenced work on the
flockers with Fred he was alarmed. He talked the matter over with Tim.
Both felt uneasy and unhappy, but they could see no way to help the
case, so left it to fate, which speedily did its work.

Revenge to Matthew was a sad failure--had almost ruined him. Every
effort he had made had recoiled upon him so unexpectedly and
persistently that now he was beset on all sides with danger of exposure
and punishment.

Fred--his rival--had stood up manfully under fire without flinching. He
had won at every point and was now fast regaining his old position.

"His friendship, too, with Nellie Dutton is re-established, and I can do
no more to prevent it," sighed Matthew regretfully. "I met her this
morning and she would not speak to me, but she entertained Fred all last
evening."

While thus meditating, the report that Jacob Simmons had been arrested
for burning Mr. Rexford's store reached Matthew. He hurried home and to
his room, and there threw himself upon his bed and wept bitterly.
Disappointment, disgrace, and humiliation all crowded upon him, and the
inevitable step that he must take stared him cruelly in the face.

His heart beat with bitter anguish as he thought of all this--of his
good home, of his father's pride in him and of his mother's love, of his
sister's tender affection--thought of all those near and dear to
him--and shuddered as he realized the disappointment and sorrow that was
to fall heavily upon them from his own wicked acts.

He buried his face in his pillow and sobbed till it seemed that his
heart would break.

"Oh, if I could only undo the past!" he cried. But he had gone too far.

His pride and haughty spirit were completely crushed, and when he
finally arose from his bed he was humbled indeed.

The following morning all Mapleton was excited by the report that
Matthew De Vere could not be found.

He had not been seen by any one since the previous afternoon. Just where
he was last seen was a mystery. One said he saw him coming from the pine
grove with Tim Short about dusk; others tried to convince themselves and
their friends that they had met him in this place or that, while a vague
report stated that he was last seen by the river bank passing hurriedly
from view in the darkness.

This was a sensational rumor. Was he drowned? Had he committed suicide?
If so, why? Every one discussed the case--speculated upon it. None
thought exactly alike, and each labored to persuade the other that his
theory was the correct one.

Matthew's parents and sister were heartbroken. They knew nothing of his
whereabouts, save that they believed he was safe, for they found a note
in his room saying simply that he was forced to leave town immediately;
that he could not then explain why, and that they would soon know all.
He begged them not to worry about him, and humbly asked their
forgiveness.

When Mr. Rexford heard that Matthew De Vere was missing, he immediately
had Tim Short arrested, charged with robbing and burning his store.

Sheriff Coombs served the papers upon Tim, who had not as yet learned
the news about Matthew.

When the sheriff spoke to him he was too badly frightened to reply.

"I shall have to take you with me," said the officer; "no way out of it
now. The law ain't tender hearted with fellers that rob and burn.
Besides, that De Vere boy has run away."

Tim staggered and fell to the ground. He had fainted dead away. When he
regained consciousness his first words were:

"And now Matthew De Vere has run away and left me when he was the cause
of it all." Great tears rolled down his cheeks and he sobbed bitterly.

Even the sheriff's heart was touched, and his official bearing relaxed
as the boy's mother, almost prostrate with grief, implored him to let
Tim go.

"Your son practically acknowledges his guilt," said the sheriff. "In any
case, I should be compelled as an officer to arrest him, since the
papers were placed in my hands. Still I think if he were to turn State's
evidence--that is, to tell of his own free will all the facts connected
with the affair--the court would probably deal more leniently with him."

Tim brightened up considerably at this remark, which seemed to hold out
a means of escape.

"I will tell the court all I know--everything from first to last," said
he as he marched off with the sheriff.

The case excited so much interest that the court room was filled to
overflowing. Among those present was Matthew's father, who wished to
know the facts about his son's connection with the robbery. Dr. Dutton,
Mr. Farrington, and Fred Worthington were also present. Yes, another was
there--little Carl, pale and thin from his sickness, but alive with
interest in what he expected to be Fred's great triumph.

When the court was ready for the trial, Mr. Ham, on the part of the
prosecution, called Tim Short as the first witness, much to the surprise
of Jacob Simmons and his lawyer.

"Do you know anything about John Rexford's store being robbed and
burned?" asked Mr. Ham of Tim.

"I do," said the latter.

"Tell us all you know about it."

Tim hesitated a moment, hardly knowing how to commence the confession of
such a serious crime.

"Did you have any direct connection with it?" asked attorney Ham, by way
of assisting the boy.

"Yes, sir," answered Tim.

"What did you do?"

"I helped rob the store, and then we set fire to it."

"Who was with you?"

"Matthew De Vere was with me."

"Who else?"

"No one."

"Did Jacob Simmons have anything to do with the robbery?"

"No, not exactly."

"What do you mean by 'not exactly'?"

"I mean he wasn't there and didn't do it, but if it hadn't been for him
we shouldn't have thought of robbing Mr. Rexford's store or had any
trouble."

"Then he planned the robbery for you?"

"No."

"What was his connection with it, then?"

"He threatened to have us arrested if we didn't pay him three hundred
dollars."

Tim here explained why Simmons demanded the money--told how Matthew came
to the saloon for him, how they lay in wait for Fred, and the mistake
they made in supposing Jacob Simmons to be the latter.

"And he demanded this three hundred dollars as a reward for secrecy?"
asked the judge.

"Yes, sir," replied Tim.

Jacob Simmons' face was scarlet. Every one looked at him contemptuously,
while he had to endure the cutting glances without a shield.

Right here Mr. Ham read the paper that Nellie Dutton had found, as
evidence to substantiate Tim's statement.

"Why did Matthew De Vere wish to waylay Fred Worthington?" asked Judge
Plummer thoughtfully, as if to get at the bottom of the facts.

"He said he wanted to get square with him."

"Is that all?"

"That and to teach him not to interfere with him."

"How had Fred interfered with him?"

"I don't know that, but I am sure Matthew did everything he could to
injure him."

"Did he do more than attempt to waylay him?"

"Yes, he played friendship with Fred and got the bartender to drug him,
and that was what made him drunk that time when everybody talked about
him."

Now every one looked at Fred, but these were congratulatory glances,
with a bit of hero worship about them.

Mr. Farrington and Dr. Dutton, who sat near Fred, leaned over and
congratulated him with a warm grasp of the hand.

Every cloud that had hovered over our young friend was now swept
away--every mystery was at last explained, and he stood triumphant over
all opponents, the hero of the village--much stronger and far more
popular than if he had never been _under fire_. He was tried and not
found wanting in the qualities that go to make a strong man with a noble
character.

In answer to further questions of the judge, Tim stated that they knew
of no legitimate way to raise the money, as Matthew did not dare speak
to his father about it; that they were forced to do something, believing
Jacob Simmons would have them arrested if they failed to produce the
amount demanded.

He further stated that Matthew and he were driven almost crazy by these
repeated demands from Simmons, and committed the robbery without
realizing what they were doing.

They burned the store, he said, to cover their theft. All the money
found he claimed was given to Mr. Simmons, together with some articles
that would not excite suspicion. Among the latter was the knife Fred
discovered in Jacob's possession, and which led to the detection of the
guilty parties.

"Did you give Jacob Simmons all the goods you took from the store?"
asked the judge.

"No, sir. We were afraid he would suspect us, so we gave him only a few
things besides the money," answered Tim. "We hid the other things in the
pine grove."

"Are they there yet?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you didn't make up the full three hundred dollars for Jacob
Simmons?"

"No; but Matthew promised to pay him the balance, so he agreed to do
nothing further."

It could not be shown that Jacob Simmons had directly incited the boys
to commit the robbery, though he was unquestionably the cause of it.
Neither could it be proved that he had knowingly received stolen goods.

The narrative of the legal proceedings would be entirely out of the
design of this story. I will therefore state merely the final results.

In view of the fact that Tim Short confessed his guilt, and that he was
the tool of Matthew De Vere, he was saved from going to prison, and was
sent instead to serve three years in the State reform school, where he
was compelled to learn a trade, and to conform to a rigid disciplinary
system.

Jacob Simmons was found guilty of blackmail, and was sentenced to one
year at hard labor in the State prison, in addition to a fine of three
hundred dollars.

But where was Matthew De Vere all this time?

Among those who congratulated Fred, none did so with more sincerity than
did Nellie Dutton, and the flattering remarks made about him by the
entire village were very gratifying to her.

As she and Fred talked over the trying events of the preceding months,
she remarked that she had learned to esteem him more highly than ever.

"To hear you say that, Nellie," said he gratefully, "more than repays me
for all I have suffered from Matthew De Vere's malice."

"I am glad, then, that we are such good friends," said Nellie
thoughtfully.

"Yes, even better than in the old days, are we not?" said Fred, almost
affectionately.

"We know each other better, I think," answered Nellie. Then she went to
the piano, and, playing her own accompaniment, she sang with unusual
effect one of Fred's favorite songs.

A few days after the trial Fred received a note from Mr. De Vere, asking
him to come to the bank. Obtaining permission to leave the mill Fred
started off. He found the bank president looking worn and anxious. Mr.
De Vere greeted him kindly, and said:

"Fred, I have sent for you to offer you a position. Would you like to
become a banker?"

Fred was thoroughly surprised at such a proposition. "I can hardly
realize that such an opportunity is before me," he said. "I thank you
sincerely, Mr. De Vere, but I can't understand why you should offer it
to me when there are so many others better fitted for it."

"There are two reasons, my boy. First, I owe you some recompense for all
the injury and injustice Matthew has done you. I cannot believe he
foresaw all that would follow his first petty revenge, but was forced
on, step by step, by a wicked man. But the injury to you was the same,
and my wife and daughter join me in feeling that we owe you this
reparation."

"Do not think of such a thing, Mr. De Vere. You are not responsible, and
I would not think of accepting a position on that account."

Mr. De Vere handed Fred a letter.

"Read this," he said.

The letter was from Matthew, headed "Chicago." It contained a full
confession of his crime, and gave all the circumstances that led up to
it. He begged his parents and sister to forgive him. Upon this point he
said:

     Oh, if you only knew what I have suffered, and am still
     suffering, on account of my foolish and wicked acts, I think
     you would have charity for me.

     How I would like to see you all--my dear home, and my own
     pretty room. If only I could fall on my knees before you and
     mother, and with true penitent tears wipe out the past, how
     gladly I would do so. But this, I realize, is forbidden me. I
     have forfeited my home, my parents, my reputation, my native
     State even, and all to gratify a petty grudge. I wish you
     would see Fred Worthington and tell him how I have wronged
     him, and ask him if he can forgive me. He has won the contest
     while I am ruined--ruined so far as my old life goes--but
     now, my dear father and mother, I have commenced a new
     career.

     I have told Cousin Henry everything about the past and he has
     helped me plan for the future. He has furnished me some money
     and I shall start tomorrow for one of the Territories, where
     I shall commence life for myself.

     I shall work and be a man in all that is honorable and right.
     I feel ten years older than I did a few months ago. I have
     taken some books with me to study.

     The first money I earn shall go to Mr. Rexford, in payment
     for his loss by my hands. He shall lose nothing if I live
     long enough to earn the money due him. I wish you would
     protect Tim Short so far as possible. I alone am responsible
     for his connection with the robbery.

     In writing to me, if I may so far expect your forgiveness,
     please address me in care of Cousin Henry and he will forward
     to me. I will write to you as soon as I get located, and tell
     you all my plans.

After writing at some length upon family matters, Matthew closed his
letter by again appealing to his parents and sister for forgiveness, and
by assuring them of his love.

Fred returned the letter to Mr. De Vere, feeling deeply touched and
profoundly sorry for Matthew.

"Tell him," said he, "that he has my forgiveness in full, and that I
wish him prosperity in his new life."

"Thank you, Fred, for your generosity. He is my boy still, and is dear
to me, though he has done wrong. But," he continued, with moist eyes,
"he is lost to me now--lost so far as all my plans for his future went;
and now, Fred, I want you to take his place. I had designed to put him
into the bank next year, and to give him a thorough training; but as he
has gone and cannot return, I want you to take the position."

"I thank you sincerely for this offer, Mr. De Vere. I should certainly
like such a position, but the fear that you offer it to me as a
recompense causes me to hesitate about accepting it."

"Do not hesitate on that ground, my boy. I have heard from Dr. Dutton,
one of our directors, from Mr. Rexford and others, that you are in all
respects better qualified for the position than any other young man in
town. The salary for the first year will be five hundred. After that you
will be advanced. Will you accept?"

"Yes, I will accept, with many, many thanks," replied Fred gratefully.

He immediately returned to the factory and told Mr. Farrington of his
good fortune. The latter congratulated him, "and yet," said he, "I am
rather sorry, for I had designed to take you up to this department and
teach you the entire business; however, I will gladly let you go,
believing as I do that your new position is an exceptionally fine one
for a boy of your age."

"I thank you a thousand times, Mr. Farrington, for your willingness to
let me off and for all your kindness to me. Now I know the value of a
good friend. If it had not been for your kindness and assistance, when
none spoke well of me, I might not have established my innocence. As it
is, through your help I have gained everything."

On leaving Mr. Farrington, Fred went to Mr. Rexford and told him he
should be obliged to give up the idea of taking his old position as
clerk, and after explaining why, told him he wanted him to do him a
favor by giving little Carl a position in his store at a fair salary,
and to arrange his duties so that he would have only light work to do.

The merchant agreed to do this. In fact, he would have done almost
anything for Fred, for he felt under many obligations to him.

Fred was very happy over the bright prospects for his little crippled
friend, as it had been his own privilege to help him.

Fred's promotion to the bank created a sensation in the village, and he
was looked upon as the luckiest person in town. It is safe to believe
that Nellie Dutton rejoiced in Fred's good fortune far more than she was
willing for any one to suspect. As time rolled on they were often seen
together, and seemed like brother and sister.

That they were happy in each other's society there could be no doubt.
Her influence upon him refined his manners and elevated his tastes,
while associating with him was quite as beneficial to her in gaining
broader ideas and contracting the habit of thinking and reasoning after
the fashion of men.

The last time I saw them was on a beautiful evening in June. Dave
Farrington and I were returning home from a trouting expedition. We were
upon an elevated plain, where we could survey the surrounding country.
Nature seemed at her best, and this was one of her choicest scenes. The
rich green stretching everywhere before the eye was only broken by the
white and pink blossoms of fruit trees and shrubbery. The sun was
sinking behind a distant mountain which threw its shadow upon the
landscape about us, and rich, golden hues spread out over the entire
western horizon.

"A charming scene," remarked Dave, with true admiration.

"It is indeed," said I; "but here is beauty far more attractive."

Dave turned, and beholding Fred and Nellie close upon us, replied:

"You are right. I never saw her look so pretty."

They were taking an evening drive with a handsome bay horse and high
carriage. The top was tipped back, and they appeared to be enjoying the
scene that had engrossed our own attention.

Nellie was clad in a light summer dress, with a pale blue sash which
matched the trimming of her jaunty hat. Never until then had I realized
that she was so handsome. With fair complexion and glowing cheeks, she
presented a picture for an old master, as she talked and laughed
merrily.

We raised our hats as they passed by, and soon they were beyond our
view.

"Dave," said I, "there is a glimpse of what life should be. It is a
sweet picture. Why, I wonder, do boys go to destruction by visiting
iniquitous dens, by keeping low and vulgar company, by drinking,
smoking, and gambling, when they might follow Fred's example, and be as
refined, respected, and supremely happy as he now seems to be?"



THE END.



    +-----------------------------------------------+
    | Transcriber's Note:                           |
    |                                               |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the  |
    | original document have been preserved.        |
    |                                               |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:   |
    |                                               |
    | Page  62  crytallized changed to crystallized |
    | Page  67  Ill changed to I'll                 |
    | Page 109  VI. changed to XV.                  |
    | Page 153  to changed to too                   |
    | Page 190  accidently changed to accidentally  |
    | Page 236  removed extra too far.              |
    +-----------------------------------------------+





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