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Title: Young Auctioneers - The Polishing of a Rolling Stone
Author: Stratemeyer, Edward, 1862-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Young Auctioneers - The Polishing of a Rolling Stone" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: LET GO OF THAT HORSE!--PAGE 144.    Y. A.]



                  *       *       *       *       *



  YOUNG AUCTIONEERS;
  THE POLISHING OF A ROLLING STONE.

  By EDWARD STRATEMEYER,

  Author of "Bound to be an Electrician," "Shorthand Tom,"
  "Fighting for his Own," etc., etc.


  W. L. ALLISON COMPANY,
  NEW YORK.


                  *       *       *       *       *


Popular Books for Boys and Girls.


Working Upward Series,

  By EDWARD STRATEMEYER.

  THE YOUNG AUCTIONEERS, or The Polishing of a Rolling Stone.
  BOUND TO BE AN ELECTRICIAN, or Franklin Bell's Success.
  SHORTHAND TOM THE REPORTER, or The Exploits of a Smart Boy.
  FIGHTING FOR HIS OWN, or The Fortunes of a Young Artist.

  Price, $1.00 per Volume, postpaid.


Bright and Bold Series,

  By ARTHUR M. WINFIELD.

  POOR BUT PLUCKY, or The Mystery of a Flood.
  SCHOOL DAYS OF FRED HARLEY, or Rivals for All Honors.
  BY PLUCK, NOT LUCK, or Dan Granbury's Struggle to Rise.
  THE MISSING TIN BOX, or Hal Carson's Remarkable City Adventures.

  Price, 75 Cents per Volume, postpaid.


Young Sportsman's Series,

  By CAPTAIN RALPH BONEHILL.

  THE RIVAL BICYCLISTS, or Fun and Adventures on the Wheel.
  YOUNG OARSMEN OF LAKEVIEW, or The Mystery of Hermit Island.
  LEO THE CIRCUS BOY, or Life Under the Great White Canvas.

  Price, 75 Cents per Volume, postpaid.


Young Hunters Series,

  By CAPTAIN RALPH BONEHILL.

  GUN AND SLED, or The Young Hunters of Snow-Top Island.
  YOUNG HUNTERS IN PORTO RICO, or The Search for a Lost Treasure.
    (Another volume in preparation.)

  Price, 75 Cents per Volume, postpaid.


  W. L. ALLISON CO.,
  105 Chambers Street, New York.


COPYRIGHT, 1897, BY W. L. ALLISON CO.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER.                                                        PAGE
        I. Matt Attends a Sale                                       5
       II. A Lively Discussion                                      12
      III. Something of the Past                                    19
       IV. An Interesting Proposition                               26
        V. Matt Is Discharged                                       33
       VI. A Business Partnership                                   40
      VII. Getting Ready to Start                                   47
     VIII. An Unexpected Set-Back                                   53
       IX. The Result of a Fire                                     60
        X. On the Road at Last                                      68
       XI. Harsh Treatment                                          77
      XII. Matt Stands up for Himself                               84
     XIII. The Corn Salve Doctor                                    92
      XIV. The Young Auctioneer                                    100
       XV. The Charms of Music                                     108
      XVI. The Confidence Man                                      116
     XVII. The Storm                                               124
    XVIII. A Hold Up                                               132
      XIX. Out of a Bad Scrape                                     141
       XX. Accused of Stealing                                     150
      XXI. The Tell-Tale Cap                                       157
     XXII. The Shanty in the Woods                                 165
    XXIII. Something is Missing                                    173
     XXIV. Along the River                                         181
      XXV. A Bitter Mistake                                        189
     XXVI. Something of a Surprise                                 197
    XXVII. Timely Assistance                                       205
   XXVIII. Back to the Village                                     213
     XXIX. Undesirable Customers                                   220
      XXX. A Dash from Danger                                      229
     XXXI. Dangerous Mountain Travelling                           238
    XXXII. An Interesting Letter                                   245
   XXXIII. The Rival Auctioneers                                   252
    XXXIV. Matt Speaks His Mind                                    260
     XXXV. Tom Inwold                                              268
    XXXVI. Lost in the Snow                                        277
   XXXVII. More of Auction Life                                    284
  XXXVIII. A Surprising Discovery                                  291
    XXXIX. A Mystery Cleared Up                                    298
       XL. The Mining Shares                                       304



PREFACE.


"The Young Auctioneers" forms the initial volume of a line of juvenile
stories called "The Working Upward Series."

The tale is complete in itself, and tells of the adventures of a
homeless, although not a penniless youth, who strikes up an
acquaintanceship with another young fellow experienced as an
auctioneer. The two purchase a horse and wagon, stock up with goods,
and take to the road. The partners pass through a number of more or
less trying experiences, and the younger lad is continually on the
lookout for his father, who has broken out of an asylum while partly
deranged in mind over the loss of his wife and his fortune.

I have endeavored in this tale to give a faithful picture of life
among a certain class of traveling salesmen who are but little known
to the world at large, especially to those who inhabit our large
cities. In country places the traveling auctioneer is looked for as a
matter of course, and he is treated according to the humor of the
inhabitants, or rather, according to the merits or demerits of the
"bargains" offered on a previous trip.

I sincerely trust that my numerous boy readers will find the tale to
their liking, and that the moral--to lead an upright, honest life
under any and all circumstances--will not escape them.

EDWARD STRATEMEYER.



THE YOUNG AUCTIONEER.



CHAPTER I.

MATT ATTENDS A SALE.


"Now, ladies and gentlemen, what am I offered for this elegant vase,
imported direct from Italy, a most marvelous piece of workmanship,
worth every cent of twenty-five dollars? Who will start it at five
dollars? Start it at four? Start it at three? At two? At one dollar?
What is that--fifty cents? Rather low, lady, but as I said before,
these goods must be sold, regardless of the prices obtained. Fifty
cents, it is! Fifty--fifty! Who will make it one dollar?"

"Sixty!"

"What, only sixty? Well, well, well! Never mind, the goods must go,
and sixty cents is better than nothing. Sixty--sixty----"

"Seventy-five!"

"Eighty!"

"One dollar!"

"At last I am offered one dollar! Think of it! One dollar for a
beautiful vase such as might well adorn the home of a Gould, or a
Vanderbilt! But such is life. One dollar--one dollar----"

"One and a quarter!"

"One and a half!"

"One and a half is offered! Oh, what a shame, ladies and gentlemen; a
paltry dollar and a half for an article worth, at the very lowest
estimate, twenty-five dollars. Who makes it two dollars?"

"Two!"

"Two and a half!"

"Three!"

"Three and a quarter!"

"Three and a quar-- Ah, four dollars? Four dollars! Who says five?
Going at four--at four--at four. Four and a half--four and a
quarter--this is your last chance, remember. Did you say five, sir?
No? Well, four it is, then. Going--going--the last chance, ladies and
gentlemen! Going--going--gone, to the lady in the brown dress, Andrew,
for four dollars!"

The scene was a small store on Nassau street near Fulton street, in
New York City. Outside of the open doorway hung a red flag, indicative
of an auction sale. The single window of the place was crowded with
vases, imitation marble statues, plated tableware, and gorgeous lamps
of highly-polished metal.

Among these articles was a sign in black letters on white cardboard
bearing these words:

  ROYAL CONSIGNMENT AUCTION CO.,
  Sales Daily from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M.

Inside, toward the rear, there was a small raised platform, and upon
this stood the auctioneer, a tall, thin-faced man, with sharp black
eyes, and rather a squeaky voice. To one side was his assistant, a
much younger and much more pleasant-looking individual, who wrapped up
the articles sold and collected for them.

It was between twelve and one o'clock in the day, and the auction
store was crowded with business people, who, during their lunch-time,
had dropped in to see what was going on, and, possibly, make a
purchase. There were middle-aged business men, young clerks, and
several young ladies, and all appeared interested in the mild
excitement attending the disposal of the goods.

Among the young people present was a boy of fifteen, whose clothing,
although not of a fashionable cut, was, nevertheless, neat and clean.
He had dark curly hair, and his face was as honest in appearance as
it was fearless and handsome.

The youth was as much interested in the sale as though he was buying
half the articles auctioned off, although he had not enough in his
trousers pocket to even start bidding, for no bid of less than
twenty-five cents was recognized by the auctioneer in beginning a
sale.

The vase disposed of, the auctioneer's assistant brought forth from a
side shelf a piece of imitation marble statuary, representing three
doves bearing a wreath of flowers between them. The bit of bric-a-brac
looked quite nice, but as it was but imitation marble, it was not
worth more than two dollars, if as much.

"Now, here we have as fine a piece of Italian marble as was ever
brought to New York," began the auctioneer, holding up the piece in
question. "And the work upon it cannot to-day be excelled by any
sculptors on this side of the Atlantic. How beautiful are those three
doves, and how natural that wreath! Examine the piece for yourselves,
ladies and gentlemen. It is genuine Italian marble, and will not go to
pieces in your hands. There you are, sir."

The bit of statuary was handed to a gentleman who stood directly in
front of the auctioneer. He gave it a hasty glance and then started
to hand it back.

"Pass it through the crowd, please. I want every one to be convinced
of its quality before I attempt to sell it!" bawled the auctioneer,
and the gentleman handed it to the man next to him.

Thus started, the bit of bric-a-brac traveled from one hand to another
until it reached a heavy-set man with red mustache, who stood but a
couple of yards from the doorway.

"Humph!" muttered the man, as he turned over the article in contempt.
"I wouldn't give a dollar a cartload for them. Here you are!"

As he finished, he thrust the piece of bric-a-brac toward a young lady
who had just entered. She drew back in surprise, not knowing what his
action meant. The statuary left the man's hand, touched the young
lady's arm, and then fell to the floor with a crash, and was broken
into a dozen pieces.

The young lady uttered a slight shriek of surprise at the accident, and
instantly the crowd looked toward her, and then at the auctioneer.

"Here, who broke that?" demanded the auctioneer, in an entirely
different tone of voice, as he left his stand and hurried to the
spot.

"That young lady," replied a fellow who had not seen the movements of
the man with the red mustache.

"No! no! I did not do it!" cried the young lady, shrinking back. "I
did not touch the piece, sir."

"Well, but it's right at your feet, madam; you must have let it fall,"
said the auctioneer harshly.

"I did not, sir."

"Well, who did, then?"

"A man who ran out as soon as the statuary was broken."

"Oh, pshaw! It isn't likely a man would run away like that."

"The young lady speaks the truth, sir," put in the boy previously
mentioned. "The man shoved the statue toward her, and when she drew
back it slipped from his hand to the floor. She was not in the least
responsible."

"Thank you for that, Matt Lincoln," said the young lady, with a
grateful nod. "I shall not forget this service."

"Oh, that's all right, Miss Bartlett," returned the boy, blushing. "I
like to be of service to you."

"You evidently seem to know this young lady?" said the auctioneer,
turning to Matt Lincoln.

"I do; she is the stenographer at our office. That's how I came to
notice her when she came in."

"No wonder you try to shield her!" sneered the auctioneer. "But I
can't afford to let this matter pass. You will have to pay for the
damages done, madam. The cost price of that piece of bric-a-brac was
ten dollars, but I'll throw off two dollars and call it eight."



CHAPTER II.

A LIVELY DISCUSSION.


At the intimation that she must pay eight dollars, the face of the
young lady stenographer grew pale, while that of Matt Lincoln flushed
up.

"I--I cannot pay the money!" gasped Ida Bartlett. "I have no such
amount with me."

"It's a swindle!" burst in Matt Lincoln indignantly. "Don't you pay a
cent. Miss Bartlett. It was not your fault, and he cannot force you to
pay."

"Shut right up!" snarled the auctioneer, turning to Matt fiercely.
"Unless you want to get yourself into trouble."

"I won't shut up and see this young lady ill-treated!" retorted Matt,
flushing still more. "You may think you can ride over me, but you
can't do it. I'll----"

"Hush, Matt!" pleaded the stenographer, catching him by the arm. "Do
not say anything rash."

"But, Miss Bartlett, this chap wants to force you into paying for
something you didn't do! I wouldn't stand it! I'd fight him first!"

"You would, would you?" growled the auctioneer, his face growing dark
and sour.

"Yes, I would!" retorted the boy defiantly. "I'm not afraid of you!"

"Say, that boy's game!" laughed a bystander.

"Yes, a regular little bantam," replied another.

"I'll settle with you in a minute," said the auctioneer, finding he
could not silence Matt. "Now, madam, do you intend to pay for the
damage done or not?"

"I did not do the damage, and I cannot see how you can ask me to pay,"
faltered Ida Bartlett.

"I have proof that you let the piece of bric-a-brac fall."

"The chap who says he saw her drop it had his back turned at the
time," put in Matt, and turning to the individual in question, he
added: "Can you swear that you saw the piece of statuary leave her
hand?"

"N-no, I can't do that," returned the fellow slowly. "But it went down
at her feet, and----"

"You imagined the rest," finished Matt. "I told you so," he went on
triumphantly.

"See here; you shut up," cried the auctioneer, losing his temper.
"Dilks, come here and help me," he went on, appealing to the assistant
he had before called Andrew.

The assistant auctioneer came forward upon this. His face wore a
troubled look, as if he did not relish the duty he was called upon to
perform.

"I'm afraid there is some mistake here, Mr. Gulligan," he said in a
low tone, meant only for the auctioneer's ears.

"Some mistake!" howled Caleb Gulligan, for such was the auctioneer's
name. "I don't make mistakes."

"I saw the man run out as soon as the statuary was broken, and by his
manner I am sure he must be the guilty party."

"See here, Andrew Dilks, who is running this establishment?" stormed
Caleb Gulligan wrathfully. "I lay the accident at the door of the
young woman, and, as the man is gone, she will pay the bill--or take
the consequences."

The assistant auctioneer flushed up at these words. It was plain to
see that he was an honest young man, and did not like such underhand
work.

"Perhaps she hasn't the money to pay?"

"Then she must take the consequences," replied the auctioneer sourly.

"Not much!" put in Matt, who had overheard the best part of the
conversation between Caleb Gulligan and his assistant. "Miss Bartlett,
if I was you I wouldn't stay here another minute," he went on to the
stenographer, in a whisper.

"Why, what would you do?" she returned.

"Skip out. They haven't any right to make you trouble."

"But, Matt, that would not be right."

"Never mind; go ahead. You haven't any friend here but me. Mr. Fenton
wouldn't help you any, even if you ask him."

The young lady stood still for a moment, and then made a sudden
movement for the doorway. Caleb Gulligan rushed after her, only to
find Matt Lincoln barring his progress.

"Get out of my way, boy!"

"Which way?" queried Matt coolly.

"You rat! Out of my way!"

The auctioneer placed his hand upon the boy's arm, with the intention
of hurling him aside. But, strange to say, although he was taller than
the youth, he could not budge the latter for several seconds, and by
that time the young lady had disappeared, swallowed up in the noonday
crowd which surged past the door.

"Now see what you have done!" stormed Caleb Gulligan wrathfully. "You
have aided that young woman to escape!"

"That's just what I meant to do," returned Matt, with a coolness that
would have been exasperating to even a less sensitive man than the
crusty auctioneer.

"I shall hold you responsible for it!"

"I don't care if you do," was Matt's dogged reply. "She's my friend,
and I always stick up for my friends."

At this last remark there was a low murmur of approval from those
gathered about. Evidently, the boy's unpolished but honest manner had
won considerable admiration.

"Do you know that I can have you locked up?"

"What for?"

"For aiding her to escape."

"Didn't she have a right to hurry away if she wanted to go? It's
almost one o'clock--I'll have to be off myself soon, if I want to keep
my job."

There was a laugh at this, and half a dozen looked at their watches
and left.

"If you please," put in the assistant nervously. "Had we not better go
on with the sales? The crowd will be gone before long. We might make
more than what was lost here."

"Certainly, go on with the sales," howled Caleb Gulligan. "I will take
care of this young rascal, and find out what has become of that young
woman."

"And that man," began the assistant.

"Never mind the man; the young woman shall pay for the damage done,
and she can fix it up with the man afterward, if she wishes. I am not
going to stand the loss."

"It seems to me you are making an awful row over a fifteen-cent piece
of plaster-of-paris," said Matt to Gulligan, as Andrew Dilks turned
toward the auctioneer's stand. "Why didn't you ask me to pay for the
stuff and done?"

"Plaster-of-paris!" cried the auctioneer wrathfully. "That is real
Italian marble----"

"Made in Centre street," interrupted Matt.

"And it is worth every cent of ten dollars----"

"Ten dollars a carload, you mean," went on the boy. "Come, let go of
me; I've got to go to work."

"You'll go to the Tombs!"

"No, I won't. I have done nothing wrong, and I want you to let go of
me."

Matt began to struggle, much to the delight of the spectators, who
refused to listen to what the assistant auctioneer might have to say
from the stand.

"I'll teach you a lesson!" fumed Caleb Gulligan. "How do you like
that?"

He swung Matt around and caught him by the throat and the collar. But
only for an instant was he able to hold the boy in that fashion. Matt
squirmed and twisted like an eel, and suddenly gave the old
auctioneer a push which sent him sprawling upon his back. Before Caleb
Gulligan could recover, Matt was out of the door and running like a
deer up Nassau street.

"Hi! hi! stop him!" roared the old auctioneer. "He must not get
away."

"Stop him yourself, then," said one of the bystanders heartlessly. "We
have nothing to do with your quarrel with the boy."

"You are in league with him," fumed Caleb Gulligan, as he scrambled to
his feet. "But, never mind, I'll catch him!"

He ran out of the auction store and gazed perplexedly up and down into
the crowd. It was useless. Matt Lincoln, like his friend, Ida
Bartlett, had disappeared.



CHAPTER III.

SOMETHING OF THE PAST.


Matt Lincoln did not stop until he reached Temple Court, as that large
office-building on the corner of Nassau and Beekman streets is called.
Then he drew a long breath as he took a stand in one corner of a side
corridor.

"There, I've put my foot into it again, I suppose," he said, somewhat
dismally. "I reckon old Uncle Dan was right, I'm the rolling stone
that's forever getting into a hole and out without settling anywhere.
But I couldn't stand it to see Miss Bartlett threatened. It wasn't a
fair thing to do, and that auctioneer ought to be run out of the city.
I suppose he'll be after my scalp now."

Matt Lincoln was sixteen years of age. For the past two years he had
been depending entirely upon himself, and during that time he had,
indeed, been a rolling stone, although not entirely without an
object.

Up to his tenth year Matt had lived with his father and mother in the
Harlem district of the great metropolis. He had attended one of the
public schools, and, take it all in all, had been a happy boy.

Then came a cloud over the Lincoln home. Mr. Lincoln was interested,
as a speculator, in some mines in Montana, and by a peculiar
manipulation of the stocks of these mines he lost every dollar of his
hard-earned savings. He was an over-sensitive man, and these losses
preyed upon his mind until he was affected mentally, and had to be
sent to an asylum.

For several months Mrs. Lincoln and Matt paid weekly visits to the
asylum to see the father and husband, and they were beginning to
rejoice over the thought that Mr. Lincoln would soon be himself once
more, when one day Mrs. Lincoln fell down in the middle of Broadway,
and a heavily-loaded truck passed directly over her chest.

When the poor woman was picked up it was found she was unconscious. An
ambulance was at once summoned, and she was conveyed to one of the
city hospitals. Here Matt visited her, and listened to her last words
of love and advice. She died before sunrise the next day, and three
days later was buried.

If his mother's unexpected death was a shock to poor Matt, it was
even more of a one to Mr. Lincoln. Again was the father and husband's
mind unbalanced; this time far worse than ever before. He escaped from
the asylum, made a dramatic appearance at the home during the burial
services, and then disappeared, no one knew where.

Matt's only remaining relative at this time was his Uncle Dan, a
brother to Mr. Lincoln. He took charge of Matt, and took the boy to
his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut. At the same time a diligent
search for Mr. Lincoln was begun.

The search for Matt's father was unsuccessful, although continued for
several weeks. It was learned that he had boarded a train in Jersey
City bound for Philadelphia, but there all trace of his whereabouts
was lost.

Matt lived with his Uncle Dan for four years. He went to school in
Bridgeport part of the time, and when not learning, could be found at
Mr. Lincoln's ship chandlery, a large place, situated down near the
docks.

It would seem that the tragic occurrences through which he had passed
would have made Matt melancholy and low-spirited, but such was not the
case. Mrs. Lincoln had naturally been of a light heart, and the boy
partook of much of his mother's disposition. He loved a free-and-easy
life, loved to roam from place to place. With a captain who was a
friend of Uncle Dan, he had made a trip to Bangor and Augusta, and he
had likewise put in two weeks at a lumber camp in Maine, and a month
during the summer at a hotel among the White Mountains, doing odd jobs
for the proprietor.

"A rolling stone and nothing less," Uncle Dan had called him, over and
over again, and the title seemed to fit Matt exactly.

At length, when Matt was fourteen years old, Uncle Dan Lincoln, who
was then an elderly man, was taken with pneumonia, and died two weeks
later. His wife, a crabbed woman, who detested Matt, and was glad when
he was out of the house, at once sold out the chandlery, and went to
live with her folks in a small village in Vermont. Thus Matt was
thrown out upon his own resources with no capital but a ten dollar
bill, which his Uncle Dan had quietly slipped into his hand only a few
days before the end.

Matt remained around Bridgeport but two days after his uncle's
funeral. Then he struck up a bargain with the captain of a schooner
which was loaded with freight for Philadelphia, and sailed for that
city.

When no trace of Matt's father could be found the detectives who had
been put on the case declared their belief that the poor man had
drowned himself in the Delaware River. This belief was strengthened
when some clothing that looked like that which the demented man had
worn was found in a secluded spot not far from the river bank.

But Matt could not bring himself to believe that his father was dead.
There was a hope in his breast which amounted almost to a conviction
that some day he would again find his parent, alive and well.

Yet Matt's search in and around Philadelphia, lasting several months,
was unsuccessful. His money was soon spent, and then he started to
tramp from Philadelphia to his former home, New York.

This tramp, of about one hundred miles by the various turnpikes
through New Jersey, took the boy just one week, and when he arrived in
the metropolis, both his clothing and his shoes were considerably
worn. But he brushed up, and lost no time in hunting up work, knowing
that it would never do to remain idle.

For two days Matt was without employment. Then he thought of the man
who had sold his father the mining shares, Mr. Randolph Fenton, and he
paid the stock-broker a visit at his offices, on Broad street, just
off of Wall street.

As it happened, Randolph Fenton was just then in need of a boy to run
errands and do copying, and after a talk with Matt, he hired him at a
salary of four dollars a week.

"I'll take you in because I thought so much of your dear father,"
explained Randolph Fenton. "We were great friends, you must know, and
I feel it my duty to do something for his son."

Randolph Fenton spoke very nicely, but Matt soon found that he was by
no means the kind-hearted gentleman he wished to appear. In reality,
he was very mean and close. He worked his clerks almost to death, and
such a thing as a raise in salary was unknown in the office.

But Matt found it would do no good to complain. Times were just then
somewhat hard, and another place was not easy to obtain. He decided to
make the most of it until times grew better, and in this resolve
remained with Randolph Fenton week after week until the opening of
this story.

Matt had been sent by Randolph Fenton on an errand to Temple Court, to
be done as soon as the boy had finished lunch. Waiting for another
minute to make certain that he was not being followed, the boy hurried
to one of the elevators, and was lifted to the third floor.

The errand was quickly transacted, and with several books under his
arm for his employer, Matt started on the return to the offices in
Broad street.

Not wishing to be seen in the vicinity of the auction store, Matt
turned down Park Row instead of Nassau street, and so continued down
Broadway, his intention being to pass through Wall to Broad.

He had just reached the corner of Fulton street when some one tapped
him upon the shoulder, and turning, he found himself confronted by
Andrew Dilks, the old auctioneer's assistant.



CHAPTER IV.

AN INTERESTING PROPOSITION.


On catching sight of Andrew Dilks Matt's first thought was to break
and run. But a second look into the old auctioneer's assistant's face
assured him that no immediate harm was meant, and he stood his ground,
his eyes flashing, defiantly.

"You didn't expect us to meet quite so soon, did you?" remarked Andrew
Dilks with a quiet smile.

"No, I didn't," returned Matt bluntly.

"I suppose you were doing your best to keep out of the way of Gulligan
and myself."

"Is Gulligan the man I had the row with?"

"Yes."

"Then you are right. I don't want to get into trouble for nothing.
That young lady was not to blame for what happened, and I considered
it my duty to take her part."

"Mr. Gulligan was very mad," went on Andrew Dilks, still smiling
quietly.

"I can't help that. He ought not to have pitched into me the way he
did."

"I agree with you."

At these words, so quietly but firmly spoken, Matt's eyes opened in
wonder. Was it possible that the old auctioneer's assistant took his
part?

"You agree with me?" he repeated.

"Yes, I agree with you. Gulligan was altogether too hasty--he most
generally is," returned Andrew Dilks.

"I'll bet you don't dare tell him that," and Matt grinned mischievously.

"I have just told him."

"What?"

"Yes. I believe that unknown man was entirely to blame. It was a shame
the way Gulligan carried on. As soon as you ran out he turned upon me
for not stopping you, and we had some pretty hot words."

"Good for you!" cried Matt. "I must thank you, not only for myself,
but for Miss Bartlett as well."

"Those hot words have cost me my situation," went on Andrew Dilks more
soberly.

Instantly Matt's face fell.

"That's too bad, indeed, it is!" he said earnestly. "Why, I would
rather have gone home and got the money to pay for the broken stuff
than have that happen."

"It was not altogether on account of the broken piece of bric-a-brac,"
went on Andrew Dilks. "Gulligan has been angry at me for over two
weeks--ever since I wouldn't pass off a counterfeit five-dollar bill
he had taken in. I said the bill ought to be burned up, but he
wouldn't hear of it."

"But now you are out of a job."

"That's true. But I don't much care. Working for him was not easy, and
he never paid me my weekly wages of ten dollars until I had asked for
it about a dozen times."

"I thought auctioneers made more than that," said Matt. There was
something about Andrew Dilks that pleased him, and he was becoming
interested in the conversation.

"Most of them do--a good deal more. But Gulligan considered that he
had taught me the business, and that I was still under his thumb."

"Why don't you go in business for yourself? It seems to me it would
just suit me," said Matt enthusiastically. "I once passed through the
town of Rahway, out in New Jersey, and a fellow not much older than
you had a big wagon there, and was auctioning stuff off at a great
rate--crockery ware, lamps, albums, razors, and a lot more of goods.
They said he had been selling goods there every night for a week."

"Those are the fellows who make money," returned Andrew Dilks. "Here
in the city the business is done to death. Give a man a good team of
horses and a wagon, and enough money to stock up, and he can travel
from place to place and make a small fortune."

"I believe you. Why don't you start out?"

"I haven't enough money, that's the only reason."

"How much would it take?"

"The price of the turnout, from two hundred dollars up, and about a
hundred dollars for stock. You know stock can be purchased as often as
desired."

"By crickety! If I had the money I would go in with you!" cried Matt,
caught with a sudden idea. "That sort of thing would just suit me."

"You? Why I thought you were a city boy, a clerk----"

"So I am. But my Uncle Dan always called me a rolling stone, and that
hits it exactly. I am tired of New York, and I would jump at the first
chance to get out of it and see some of the country."

"Then you are like me," returned Andrew Dilks warmly. He was quite
taken with Matt's candor. "If I had a turnout I would travel all over
the United States, stopping a week here and a week there. How old are
you?"

"Sixteen."

"I am twenty-one. Do you live with your parents?"

"No, I am alone here."

"So am I. I used to live in Chicago before all my folks died. I like
your appearance. What is your name?"

Matt told him, and also gave Andrew Dilks a brief bit of his history.
The auctioneer listened with interest, and then told a number of
things concerning himself. He had been with Caleb Gulligan four years.
He had been sick several times, but, nevertheless, had managed to save
a hundred and thirty-five dollars.

"I've got seventy-five dollars saved, part of which I got from other
brokers than Mr. Fenton, for running errands, and so forth," said
Matt. "That and your money would make two hundred and ten dollars.
Couldn't we start out on that?"

"We might," replied Andrew Dilks reflectively. "You are on your way to
work now, are you not?"

"Yes, and I ought to be at the office this minute!" cried Matt, with a
start. "Mr. Fenton will be tearing mad, I know. But I won't
care--that is, if we come to a deal."

"Come and see me this evening, then. I am stopping at the Columbus
Hotel, on the Bowery."

"I know the place, and I'll be up at seven o'clock," returned Matt;
and on this agreement the two separated.

"My, but I would like to become a traveling auctioneer!" said the boy
to himself, as he hurried down Broadway. "I wish I had enough money so
that we could go in as equal partners. He seems a first-rate chap in
every way, and honest, too, or he would not have gotten into that row
over the five-dollar counterfeit."

Matt had lost much time in talking to Andrew Dilks, and now, in order
to reach Wall street the quicker, he hopped upon the tail-end of a
dray that was moving rapidly toward the Battery.

"Beating the cable cars out of a nickel!" he called to the driver, and
that individual smiled grimly, and said nothing.

Less than ten minutes later the boy entered the stock-broker's main
office. He was just about to pass into Randolph Fenton's private
apartment when the figure of a man moving rapidly down the street
attracted his attention. It was the red mustached man who had created
the trouble at the auction store.

"Please give these books to Mr. Fenton, and tell him I'll be back
shortly," said Matt to the head clerk, and without waiting for a reply
he placed his package on a desk, and hurried out of the door after the
man.

[Illustration: THE PURSUIT OF A FAMILIAR FACE.    Y. A.]



CHAPTER V.

MATT IS DISCHARGED.


When Matt Lincoln reached the pavement he saw that the man he was
after had reached Wall street and was turning down toward Water
street. The boy started on a run and caught up to the individual just
as he was about to descend into an insurance office which was located
several steps below the level of the street.

"Hold on there!" cried Matt, and he caught the man by the arm.

"What is it, boy?" demanded the other, with a slight start at being
accosted so unexpectedly.

"I want to see you about that piece of bric-a-brac you broke at the
auction store up on Nausau street."

The man's face reddened, and he looked confused.

"I don't--don't know what you are talking about," he stammered.

"Oh, yes, you do," returned Matt coolly. "You tried to let the blame
fall on a young lady, but it won't work. You must go back, explain
matters, and settle up."

"I'll do nothing of the kind!" blustered the red mustached man. He had
recovered from his first alarm. "I know nothing of the affair you have
in mind. I have not been near an auction store to-day--for a month, in
fact."

"That's a whopper!" exploded Matt. "You were in the place less than an
hour and a half ago!"

"Nonsense, boy, you have got hold of the wrong man. Let me go."

"Not much I won't! You are the man, and you can't fool me."

"If you don't let go I'll call a policeman just as sure as my name is
Paul Carden."

"I don't care what your name is, you've got to go back and set matters
straight."

The man glared at Matt for a moment. Then, without warning, he pushed
the boy backward. Matt was standing upon the edge of the steps leading
to the insurance office at the time, and he went down with a crash
into the wire-netting door, knocking a large hole into it.

Before Matt could recover the man darted down Wall street and around
the nearest corner. Matt would have gone after him, but the proprietor
of the insurance office came out, and demanded to know what he meant
by bursting the wire-netting door in such a rude fashion.

"A man knocked me down the steps," Matt explained. "I hope the door
isn't ruined."

"Hardly, but there's a hole in it."

"The wire has broken from under the molding, that is all," said the
boy. "Let me see if I can't fix it."

He brought out his penknife, and loosened part of the molding. Then
drawing the wire back into place, he tacked the molding fast again;
and the door was as good as before.

But all this had taken time, and Matt knew it would now be useless to
attempt to follow Paul Carden. He looked around the corner, and seeing
nothing of the fellow, retraced his steps to Randolph Fenton's
establishment.

"Where in the world have you been so long?" demanded Mr. Fenton, as
Matt entered the private apartment. "Here I have been waiting an hour
for you to deliver a message to Ulmer & Grant. I hire you to be on
hand when wanted, Lincoln; not to loaf your time away."

"I was not loafing my time away, Mr. Fenton," returned Matt calmly.
"There was a private matter I had to attend to, and----"

"You have no business to attend to private matters during office
hours!" roared Randolph Fenton wrathfully. "You will mind my business
and nothing else."

"But this could not wait. There was a man----"

"I do not care for your explanations, young man. Too much time has
already been wasted. Take this message to Ulmer & Grant's, and bring a
reply inside of ten minutes, or consider yourself discharged."

And with his face full of wrath and sourness, Randolph Fenton thrust a
sealed envelope into Matt's hand.

An angry reply arose to the boy's lips. But he checked it, and without
a word left the office and hurried away on his errand.

"I trust I make a satisfactory arrangement with Andrew Dilks," said
Matt to himself. "It is growing harder and harder every day to get
along with Mr. Fenton. Every time he talks he acts as if he wanted to
snap somebody's head off. Poor Miss Bartlett at her desk looked
half-scared to death."

Arriving at the offices of Ulmer & Grant, Matt found that Mr. Ulmer
had gone to Boston. Mr. Grant was busy, but would give him an answer
in a few minutes.

Matt sat down, wondering what Mr. Fenton would say about the delay.
Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes passed. At last Mr. Grant was at
liberty, but it was exactly half an hour before Matt managed to gain a
reply to the message he carried.

When Matt got back to Randolph Fenton's office he found the broker in
his private apartment alone, and almost purple with suppressed rage.

"You think it smart to keep me waiting, I suppose?" he sneered, as he
took Mr. Grant's message and tore it open.

"It was not my fault. Mr. Ulmer is away, and Mr. Grant was busy."

"Why didn't you let Mr. Grant know I was in a hurry?"

"The clerk said he was not to be disturbed just then, and----"

"No more explanations, Lincoln. I took you into this office more for
the sake of your poor father than for anything else. But you have not
endeavored to make the most of your chances----"

"I have done my work, and more," interrupted Matt bluntly.

"Stop! don't contradict me, young man! You are more of an idler than
aught else. This noon you wasted an hour on that errand to Temple
Court, and----"

"Mr. Fenton," interrupted a voice from the doorway, and looking up the
stock-broker saw Ida Bartlett standing there.

"What is it?" snapped the broker.

"If you please, I would like to say a word in Matthew's behalf," went
on the stenographer timidly.

"It's no use saying anything, Miss Bartlett," put in Matt hastily.
"Mr. Fenton won't listen to any explanations."

"Yes, but it was----"

"It's no use," went on Matt in a whisper. "I'm not going to stand it
any longer," and then he added, as the stock-broker's attention was
arrested by the reply Mr. Grant had sent. "I am ready to leave anyway,
if he discharges me, and you will only get into trouble if you mention
that auction-store affair."

"But it was all my fault----"

"No, it wasn't, and please keep quiet."

"But if you are discharged, Matt----"

"I've got something else in view."

"Oh!"

"Well, what have you to say, Miss Bartlett?" asked Randolph Fenton,
tearing up the message and throwing the pieces into the waste basket.

"I--I was going to say that I was partly to blame for his being behind
time this noon. I was----"

"Do not try to shield him, Miss Bartlett. I know him better than you
do. He is a very lazy and heedless boy, and I have already made up my
mind what I am going to do in the matter."

"And what's that?" asked Matt, although he felt pretty certain of what
was coming.

"This shall be your last day of service in these offices. This
afternoon I will pay you what is due you, and to-morrow I will
endeavor to get a boy who is willing to attend to business and not
fritter away his time on the streets."

"I have not frittered away my time," replied Matt warmly. "And I feel
certain you will not get any one to do more than I have done. You
expect a boy to do two men's work for a boy's pay----"

"Stop!"

"Not until I have finished, sir. I am perfectly willing to leave, even
though times are dull, and have been contemplating such a step on my
own account for some time. I was getting tired of being a slave."

"You outrageous imp! Not another word from you. I will not have you in
this place another minute! Go to Mr. Gaston and draw your pay and
leave, and never let me see your face again!"

And white with passion, Randolph Fenton sprang to his feet and threw
open the door for Matt to pass out.



CHAPTER VI.

A BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP.


Mr. Randolph Fenton's voice had been raised to its highest pitch, and
thus the attention of every one in the offices had been attracted to
what was going on.

Ida Bartlett again came forward to speak in Matt's behalf, but ere she
could say a word the boy put up his hand warningly, and turned to the
book-keeper.

"I will take what is due me, Mr. Gaston," he said.

Mr. Gaston, a somewhat elderly man, nodded, and without a word, turned
to his desk and passed over to Matt two new one-dollar bills.

"I'm sorry, my boy, it isn't more," he whispered.

"Thank you," returned Matt. "Good-by," he went on, turning to the
other office workers. And with a smile and a bow to Ida Bartlett, he
passed out of the place.

Not until he was some distance away did he draw a deep breath. Somehow
he felt as if he had just emerged from a prison cell.

"It's a wonder to me that I stood it so long," he muttered to himself.
"Mr. Fenton is a regular tyrant, and ought to move to Russia. How poor
father ever came to invest in those mining shares through him is a
mystery to me." Matt gave a sigh, and for an instant an unusually
sober look crossed his handsome face. "If only I could learn what
became of poor father--if I could make sure whether he was alive or
dead--I wouldn't care how other matters went. I must continue my
searching as soon as I can afford to do so."

Matt boarded with a private family on Third avenue, and having nothing
else to do, he walked slowly to the place. He wished he might meet the
man with the red mustache or Andrew Dilks, but he saw nothing of
either. When he arrived at the boarding-house it was still an hour to
supper-time. He ascended to his roam and spent the time in looking
over his wardrobe, for Matt was handy with a needle, and disliked to
have buttons off or rent seams in his garments.

At length the bell for supper rang, and washing up and combing his
hair, he went below. He ate his portion leisurely, and was just
finishing when the landlady said there was a young lady to see him in
the parlor.

Matt at once thought of Ida Bartlett, who lived but a few blocks away,
with her two sisters and her mother. He was right; it was the young
lady stenographer.

"I could not wait, Matt, and so came over just as soon as we had tea,"
she explained. "I want you to tell me what you are going to do, now
you are out of Mr. Fenton's offices. You spoke of having something
else in view. I trust it is something better."

"I can't tell as to that yet," returned the boy, and then sitting down
beside her on the _tête-à-tête_, he told her of Andrew Dilks and the
auctioneer's proposition.

"That sounds as if it might be quite a good thing," said Ida Bartlett,
when he had finished. "You are sure this Dilks is no sharper? There
are lots of sharpers in the auction business, you know."

"Like the one who tried to make you pay?" laughed Matt.

"Exactly."

"Well, to tell the truth, I thought of that. But Dilks doesn't look
like a sharper; quite the contrary. Of course, I'll have to keep my
eyes open. We will have a written agreement, and I will not let the
outfit go out of my sight, at least not until I know him thoroughly."

"In that case I think you will be safe."

"It is possible that we may not come to any agreement. He has more
money than I. He may want somebody who can put up an equal amount."

"How much has he?"

"A hundred and thirty-five dollars."

"And that is a good deal more than you have, I suppose?"

"I have saved seventy-five dollars," returned Matt, and not without
some pride.

"Is it possible! And on a salary of four dollars a week!"

"Not much! That salary only paid my way. I saved the money out of
extras I earned from other brokers--running errands for them and doing
writing at home in the evenings."

"I see. It is very creditable to you."

"Yet Mr. Fenton said I was lazy," replied Matt bitterly.

"Don't you care what he said. He is a very mean man--I am finding that
out more and more every day. I myself intend to leave just as soon as
I can find another place. I have been there three months, and can
hardly bear it longer."

"The last stenographer only stayed two months, and the one before
that, a man, didn't stay the week out," grinned Matt. "They soon find
out what kind of a man he is."

"I would leave to-morrow, only I cannot afford to be out of work, and
times are somewhat dull. But, about your proposed venture. You will
need sixty dollars more to hold an equal share if you go in, won't
you?"

"Yes."

Ida Bartlett meditated for a moment.

"Perhaps I might let you have that money," she said slowly.

"Why--I--I--have you got it?" stammered Matt.

"Yes; I and my two sisters have saved quite a bit out of our earnings,
you must know. I'll have to ask Kate and Jennie and mother first. If
they are willing, I'll let you have the sixty dollars, and then you
and this Dilks can form an equal partnership."

"You are very kind," exclaimed the boy warmly, for the offer was
entirely unexpected.

"No more than I ought to be, Matt. You saved me from great annoyance
this noon, and I have not forgotten the many favors you have done me
from time to time. When did you say you were to meet this Dilks?"

"This evening. I ought to be on my way to his hotel now."

"Then do not let me detain you longer."

"I guess he'll wait."

"I will speak to my two sisters and my mother to-night, and I will let
you know to-morrow what they think of the matter. If they do not
consent, I can let you have twenty-five dollars on my own account,
anyway."

"Thank you. But, supposing the venture doesn't pay? We may go all to
pieces on the road."

"I'll risk that--with you," smiled Ida Bartlett. "If you cannot make
it pay in one place, I know you'll soon find some other place where it
will pay. The main thing is to make sure that this Andrew Dilks is
honest. I would not like to hear of you being swindled."

"Nor would I want to be swindled," smiled Matt. "It wouldn't pay, and,
besides, I might find it a hard job to pay back what I had borrowed."

"You may make a fortune!"

"I would be content if we made a good living."

"And you would be able to see a good part of the country."

"That's the best part of it--to me. I hate to stay in one place all
the while. Besides"--Matt lowered his voice--"it will give me a
chance to look for my father, if he is still alive."

"You poor boy," returned Ida Bartlett sympathetically. "Always
thinking of him! Well, I trust, with all my heart, that you may some
day find your father, alive and well."



CHAPTER VII.

GETTING READY TO START.


A few minutes later found Matt on his way to the Columbus Hotel. The
Bowery was crowded with all classes of people, some just returning
from work, and others out sightseeing and buying, but the boy had no
difficulty in making his way along at a rapid gait. In less than a
quarter of an hour he reached the hotel and entered the office. He was
about to accost the clerk at the desk, when somebody tapped him on the
shoulder, and turning he saw Andrew Dilks.

"I have been watching for you," said the young man. "I was a little
afraid you might disappoint me."

"I was detained," said Matt. "But I am at your service now. Where
shall we go?"

"My room is rather small and warm, but it is more private than the
reading-room down here," returned Andrew Dilks. "Suppose we go up
there. You can sit by the window and get what little breeze there
is."

They started for the stairs (there was no elevator, as in all
better-class hotels), and were soon comfortably seated in Andrew
Dilks' room, an apartment on the third floor, in the rear.

"It's not a very elegant place," remarked the young man apologetically,
"but it's cheap, and that's what I wanted. A fellow can't spend his
money and save it, too."

"You are right there."

"As I said before, old Gulligan only gave me ten dollars a week, and
out of that I had to pay for many articles that got broken. He put off
what he could on me, whether it was my fault or not."

"I believe you said you had a hundred and thirty-five dollars?"

"Yes. It's not much, but it's something. I wish you had as much. I've
figured it that we might start with a single horse and an ordinary
covered wagon on two hundred and seventy dollars, and still keep
twenty dollars in cash for emergencies."

"I have an idea I can raise the amount."

"You can? Good enough!"

"But, first, I want you to give me some of the particulars of your
scheme."

"I'll do that willingly. I want you to understand every detail before
you invest. Then you will know just what to expect."

Andrew Dilks brought out a sheet of paper and a pencil and began to do
some figuring.

"We will put down our combined capital at two hundred and fifty
dollars," he said. "Now, what can we get a good horse for?"

"Two hundred dollars!" laughed Matt.

"You are right, but we must get one cheaper."

"Supposing we look around for a bargain at one hundred dollars,
then?"

"That is nearer the figure. We do not want a fancy animal nor a
particularly fast one. A horse that can pull our wagon ten to twenty
miles a day once or twice a week will answer."

"Yes; we can trade him off for something better later on."

"Now, I'll put down a hundred for the horse. The wagon ought not to
cost over fifty or sixty dollars."

"Make it seventy-five for wagon and harness," said Matt.

"It will foot up to two hundred with rubber blankets and extras."

"I suppose it will. Well, even that will leave us with fifty dollars
for stock."

"Will that be enough?"

"We'll make it do. If we run out I can leave you with the turnout, and
come back to New York and buy more, and have it shipped as freight to
the nearest railroad station."

"I see. I suppose they do not do any trusting with auctioneers?"

"Not with such traveling auctioneers as we will be. I would rather buy
for cash, anyway, for you can buy much cheaper."

"I suppose you can. What would you take along, and where would you
go?"

"My idea for the balance of this summer would be to strike out through
New York State down into Pennsylvania, and then across to New Jersey.
Then we can rent a store in some small town for the winter, especially
for the holidays, and start out early in the spring for the New
England States."

This plan met with Matt's approval, and he asked what goods Andrew
Dilks thought would be the most profitable to take along.

"I have a list here in my pocket," returned the young man, bringing it
forth. "You see, it includes fancy articles and statuary, besides
cheap watches, table cutlery, spoons, imitation gold rings, such
musical instruments as accordions, banjos and violins, albums, razors,
whips, and a dozen others. That ought to meet the wants in almost any
small town."

"Can you play the musical instruments?" asked Matt.

"I can play the accordion--not very well, but enough to show the
instrument off."

"I can play the banjo, and also the harmonica. You had better lay in a
stock of mouth harmonicas."

"I certainly will if you can play them. They will sell readily if they
are shown off. It is good you can play the banjo. We can play that and
the accordion whenever we want to open up, and thus attract a crowd.
Some use a bell, but music, even when it is poor, is better. Sometimes
I used to sing a comic song or two for old Gulligan when we were on
the road, but I didn't much care to do it."

"No, I wouldn't like that," said Matt.

"Gulligan sold lots of what are called 'fake' goods," went on Andrew
Dilks. "But my intention is to sell honest goods and sell them for
just what they are. We will perhaps not make as much, but people will
be better pleased, and they will not want to run us out of town if we
ever go back to the same place again."

"I am with you there," said Matt heartily. "I was afraid you might
want to palm off a lot of trash for first-class goods and I didn't
want to be a party to any such transaction."

They continued to talk the subject over for fully an hour, and by
that time both understood each other thoroughly, and had decided, if
Matt could raise the necessary cash, to go into the scheme without
delay.

"You see, we ought to do all the traveling possible before cold
weather sets in," said Andrew Dilks. "It is in the villages where the
most money is to be made, especially now, when the farmers are about
done harvesting and have some ready cash."

"As I am out of work, I can start the moment I get the money," said
Matt. "And even if I don't get that other money, I am willing to put
in every cent of what I have now."

On the following morning Matt was surprised to receive another visit
from Ida Bartlett, who had eaten an unusually early breakfast so that
she might come over before going to work.

"I knew you would be anxious to hear from me," she said. "It is all
right. The others are willing to let you have the money for a year at
the regular bank interest, three per cent."

"Thank you, and I'll try to pay it back before the year is out,"
returned Matt, much relieved.

"And you have arranged to go into the scheme? It is all satisfactory?"

"Yes."

"Good! I wish you every success."



CHAPTER VIII.

AN UNEXPECTED SET-BACK.


The next three days were busy ones for Matt and his newly-made
partner. After they had drawn up and signed such papers as they deemed
proper between themselves, they set out to look for a horse and
wagon.

Andrew Dilks had cut several advertisements of bargains from the
morning papers, and these they hunted up one after another.

The so-styled bargains proved to be more or less false. In nearly
every instance they ran across some shrewd horse-dealer, who, under
pretense of selling an outfit for a widow, or man who had left the
city, tried to palm off on them an animal and wagon not worth taking
away.

Late in the afternoon, however, when they were almost ready to give up
and go to a regular dealer, they ran across a German baker who was
selling out at a private sale.

"I vos go to Chermany next veek," he explained to the two. "Mine old
fadder vos dead, and he vos left me all his land and houses in Bremen.
See, I vos shown you der letter from der lawyers vot have his vill
got."

And he produced a large letter-head, upon which was written a dozen
lines in German, which neither could read.

"Never mind that," said Andrew. "Show us your horse and wagon, and set
a bottom cash price on them."

"Come dis vay."

The baker led the way around the corner to a boarding-stable, and
brought forth a good, chunky brown-and-white horse, that did not look
to be over six years old.

"Stand around, Billy!" he cried. "Dere he vos, chentlemen, and chust
so goot a horse as der vos in New York."

"Anything the matter with him?" asked Matt, as he began an examination
of the animal.

"Not a ding, sir. He vos sound as a tollar, and chentle as a lamb. I
vos use him on der bread route for a year and more."

"And where is the wagon?" questioned Andrew Dilks.

"Here vos der wagon," said the baker, as he ran the vehicle out so
that they might look it over.

It was a four-wheeled affair, quite large and heavy. There was one
seat in the center, and before and behind this were two big boxes,
each with a hinged lid. In the rear was a rack for pies and cakes.
There was also a box under the seat, and a money drawer which opened
with a concealed push button.

"This is just the thing for us," whispered Andrew to Matt. "For a
one-horse wagon, it could not be better arranged. The running gear
seems to be in good condition, too."

"Vell, vot you dinks of them?" asked the baker, after they had
finished their survey.

"Where is the harness?" asked Matt.

"Here she vos, new two veeks ago, and here vos der vip, too."

"And what is the lowest you can take for the rig?" asked Andrew. "We
are willing to pay spot cash, but cannot afford a fancy figure."

"I vos sold der whole dings for dree hundred dollar."

At this announcement Matt's face fell. Three hundred dollars! It was
more than they had to spend for both turnout and stock.

"Three hundred dollars," repeated Andrew Dilks. "If that's the case,
we can't do business with you."

"Dot's too pad. How much you gif, hey?"

"We will give you a hundred and seventy-five."

At this announcement the German baker held up his hands in horror, and
muttered a number of ejaculations in his native tongue.

"Make it two hundred and seventy-five," he said.

"We can't do it."

"Den take der turnout for two hundred and fifty."

"No, we can't do it," said Matt, and with a wink to Andrew Dilks, he
pulled his companion toward the stable doors.

"Hold up!" shouted the baker, in alarm. "Don't go yet, chentlemen.
Make dot figure two hundred and twenty-five, and it vos more as tog
cheap at dot."

"Perhaps it is, but we can't afford to pay it."

"If I could haf der dime to sell, I vos got more as dot, chentlemen."

"Perhaps so," returned Matt. "But you haven't got to accept our offer,
you know. We'll look around for something cheaper."

"You vill bay cash on der spot?"

"Yes; but you must give us a free and clear bill of sale."

"I vos do dot. Make it chust two hundred dollar."

But Andrew Dilks had set his mind on getting a further reduction, and
at last the bargain was settled, and they paid over a hundred and
ninety dollars for the turnout, leaving them still ten dollars to
expend upon rubber blankets and other necessary articles.

The purchase completed, they made arrangements with the boarding-stable
keeper to keep the horse and wagon for them until the following
Monday morning. In the meantime they procured some paint, and painted
over the baker's signs on the wagon, and then Andrew, who was a fair
letterer, painted on each side of the wagon-cover the following:

  THE EUREKA AUCTION COMPANY.
  Best and Cheapest Goods on Earth.

"There, that ought to attract attention wherever we go," said Andrew
when the job was finished. "The word company makes it sound big, and
we can call ourselves a company as well as not."

On Friday and Saturday the two made a tour of the wholesale houses in
New York, and Andrew expended the fifty dollars as judiciously as
possible in the purchase of goods. As business was rather slow, and
ready money scarce, he struck several decided bargains, especially in
cutlery and musical instruments. He had all of the goods sent up to
the stable, and the two worked until ten o'clock Saturday night
stowing away all of the stock in their wagon.

"Now, we are all ready for the start on Monday morning," said Andrew
as the two walked away from the stable.

"Yes, but we haven't decided where we shall go first yet," returned
Matt.

"Let us leave that until the last minute. We know about where we are
going, and it doesn't make much difference what villages we strike so
long as we do the business."

Sunday passed quickly enough for Matt. He attended church and the
Sunday-school into which Ida Bartlett had introduced him, and in the
evening he packed his valise with all of his worldly possessions. Ida
Bartlett also came over to bid him good-by, and remained to give him
such advice as he might have received from an elder sister.

Matt had arranged to meet Andrew at the stable at six o'clock sharp,
and quarter of an hour before the appointed time found him on his way
to the place, valise in hand.

"I'll show Andrew that I mean to be on time," he thought to himself,
as he turned into the street upon which the stable was situated.

Suddenly he saw a crowd running up from the block below. There were at
least a dozen men and boys, some of whom were shouting at the top of
their lungs:

"Fire! fire!"

"Fire!" repeated Matt quickly. "I wonder where it can be?"

But hardly had he uttered the words than, happening to glance toward
the stable in which their turnout was located, he saw a thick volume
of smoke come pouring out of several of the upper windows.

"My gracious!" he gasped, his face blanching. "It's that stable, and
our horse and wagon with the stock still inside!"

"That place is doomed!" said a man beside Matt. "See how the fire is
gaining headway! They won't be able to save a single horse or anything
else!"



CHAPTER IX.

THE RESULT OF A FIRE.


It was no wonder that Matt's heart was filled with dismay when he saw
the stable which contained the auction outfit being thus rapidly
devoured by the flames. Almost every cent he possessed was invested in
the horse, wagon and stock, and if they were consumed he would be left
in New York City next to penniless.

Close to where he was standing was a grocery store, and rushing into
this he threw his valise on the counter.

"Keep this for me, please!" he cried to the proprietor. "I want to try
to save my horse and wagon!"

[Illustration: SAVING THE WAGON.    Y. A.]

And before the grocer could reply he was out of the store again, and
running toward the burning stable as fast as his feet could carry
him.

When he reached the front of the building, which was three stories
high, and quite broad and deep, he found an excited mob of stable-hands,
cab-drivers and tradespeople assembled, each trying to get inside to
save his belongings.

The owner of the stable was also present, having just arrived, and was
directing, or trying to direct, the movements of the highly excited
ones.

"Go into the alley on the left!" he shouted. "You can get more out of
the side doors. The smoke is blowing too thickly out here!"

A rush was made for the alley and Matt got into the midst of the
crowd. The side doors, to which the owner of the stable had referred,
were found to be securely bolted from the inside.

"Get some axes!"

"Get a log and smash in the doors!"

"Never mind that!" yelled Matt. "I'll climb through one of the windows
and open the door!"

"Good for the boy!"

"Give me a boost up, somebody!"

Half a dozen willing hands raised Matt's form to one of the small side
windows, and an instant later the boy's form disappeared within the
smoke-laden building.

"He can't stand it in there!"

"He'll be smothered to death!"

Once inside, Matt found it advisable to crouch low down to the floor,
for the smoke did, indeed, almost smother him. He could see but
little, and had to feel his way out of a stall, and across the floor
to where the doors he wished to open were located.

"I'm afraid our nag will be a goner!" he thought dismally. "A horse
never can stand anything in the shape of a fire."

At last the doors were reached. Fortunately, he found the bolts at
once, and lost not a second in drawing them from their sockets. Then
he gave the doors a kick outward, and willing hands flung them far
back against the side of the building. Then came a rush of men and
boys, all eager to save something. For the moment it looked as if Matt
would be carried from his feet.

"Here, don't knock me down!" he cried. "Remember, I opened the doors
for you."

"So he did!" returned a burly cab driver. "Give the lad a show!"

And then Matt was given room. He quickly found his way through the
smoke and heat to where the wagon stood, ready for the start on the
road. The horse was but a few feet away snorting in alarm.

Matt had handled horses before, and he now knew just the best possible
thing to do. Taking off his coat, he flung it over Billy's head, thus
completely blindfolding him. Then he led the animal out of the stall,
and started him toward the open doors.

"Hi, Matt, is that you?" yelled a voice close at hand.

"Yes, Andy, and I'm glad you have come. See if you can pull the wagon
out."

"Can you manage Billy alone?"

"I think I can."

But Matt had his hands full, as he soon learned. Billy was not in the
humor to listen and walk the way he desired. He pranced about wildly,
and the boy had all he could do to keep from having his feet stepped
upon.

But at last Matt managed to reach the open doors, and then he gave the
horse a sharp cut on the flank, which sent him up the alley on a
canter. The boy did not wait to ascertain how far Billy might continue
on his way, but turned swiftly to help his partner, who was straining
every nerve to budge the wagon from its resting-place.

"The floor is up-hill to the side doors!" gasped Andrew Dilks. "We
can't get it out, I'm afraid!"

"We must get it out!" returned Matt desperately. "Let me get hold of
the shafts and you push. And be quick, for the floor overhead looks as
if it was going to give away at any minute!"

Andy did as Matt directed, and together they strained to their
utmost. At first the wagon, heavily loaded, refused to budge, but then
it moved slowly from its place against the wall.

"Hurrah! we are getting it!" cried Andrew Dilks. "Be sure and guide it
right, Matt. Can you see, or is the smoke too thick for you?"

"I can see; but--hold on, or we'll smash into that other wagon."

Matt held back, and allowed another wagon to pass out first. In the
meantime, the burning brands from overhead were coming down livelier
than ever. One caught Matt on the left arm, burning the flesh
slightly, and another landed on Andrew Dilks' neck, causing the
auctioneer to howl with sudden pain.

Outside could be heard the whistle of fire-engines and the clanging of
hook-and-ladder truck bells. Then came a heavy stream of water from
somewhere behind them, nearly lifting Andy from his feet.

But the way was now once more clear, and Matt yelled to his partner to
push. Both exerted every nerve, and ten seconds later the wagon rolled
out of the open doors, and was guided by Matt up the alley.

"Thank goodness we are out!" panted the boy, as they brought the wagon
to a standstill in the midst of half a dozen carriages. "Another
minute in there would just about have settled me."

"Yes, it was getting dangerous," returned Andy, with a serious shake
of his head, as he tied his handkerchief over his burned neck. "Hark!
what is that?"

His words were called forth by a dull boom, which made the soft dirt
in the alley quake.

"The upper flooring has come down!" shouted several in the crowd.

"They won't be able to get any more stuff out now!"

"We were just in time," remarked Matt, with a shiver. "Supposing we
had been in there when that flooring, with all the burning hay and
those sleighs that were stored there, came down!"

"We ought to be very thankful, not only for that, but for being able
to save our wagon and our horse. If they had been burned up we would
have been next door to beggars!"

"By the way, where is Billy?" cried Matt. "I don't see him anywhere
around."

"I'm sure I don't know."

"Stay here with the wagon and I'll hunt him up," replied Matt; and he
started off without further delay.

The alleyway had now become so choked up with vehicles, horses, and
people that it was with great difficulty that he fought his way
through the dense mass out to the next street. Once here, he looked
up and down for the horse, but could see nothing of him.

"Did you see anything of a brown and white horse around here?" he
asked of a stable-hand standing near.

"Yes; just saw him gallop up the street," was the reply. "You had
better jump on a horse-car if you want to catch him."

"You saw him run clean out of sight, then?"

"Yes; he must be halfway up to Harlem by this time."

Matt waited to hear no more, but boarded the first horse-car which
came along bound north. He took a position on the front platform, and
as they moved along kept his eyes open for a sight of the animal in
which he owned a half-interest.

Ten blocks had been passed, and the boy was beginning to grow anxious,
when, chancing to look over the fence of a small yard adjoining a
blacksmith shop, he saw a horse standing tied to a post. A second look
convinced him that it was Billy, and he at once leaped from the moving
car and hurried toward the place.

"Well, sir, what can I do for you?" asked the blacksmith, a tall,
heavy-set fellow, as he left his bellows, where he had been blowing up
the fire.

"I'll take my horse, please," returned Matt.

"Your horse? Which horse is that?"

"The runaway you just caught."

"I haven't any runaway," returned the blacksmith boldly.

"What?" cried the boy in amazement. "Why, of course you have. He is
tied to the post in the yard."

"No runaway here."

"I mean the brown and white horse."

"That horse was just left here to be shod."

For the moment Matt was too dumfounded to speak.

"To be shod?" he said at last. "Who left him here?"

"A colored man. I don't know his name."

"But he is my horse, and he doesn't need shoeing."

"I don't know anything about that," returned the blacksmith darkly.
"He was left here and that's all I know about it. You'll have to hunt
up the colored man, and fix it up with him if you want the horse."



CHAPTER X.

ON THE ROAD AT LAST.


Had the blacksmith spoken with more real concern, Matt would have
believed what he said, but there was that in the fellow's manner which
tended to make the boy suspicious.

"How long ago was it that the colored man left the horse?" he asked,
after a pause.

"Not more than an hour ago."

"An hour?"

"About that, as near as I can remember. I've been rather busy this
morning."

"That horse did not get away until about fifteen minutes ago,"
returned Matt coldly.

"Oh, you must be mistaken," returned the blacksmith smoothly.

"No, I am not mistaken," replied Matt, and his tones began to grow
sharper. "He just got away from me, after I rescued him from a burning
stable. He is my horse, and I intend to take him away."

As Matt spoke he crossed the blacksmith shop to where a doorway led to
the little yard beyond.

"Hold up there!" cried the blacksmith roughly. "You are not going out
there!"

"Yes, I am, and you can't stop me," returned Matt spiritedly. "I own
that horse, or at least I own a half-interest in him, and if you dare
to molest me you'll get into trouble."

"Will I?" sneered the blacksmith.

"Yes, you will. If you stop me, I'll call in the police."

At these words the blacksmith's face fell. Evidently he had not
anticipated that a mere boy would take such a decided stand.

"Yes, but that colored man--" he began, more mildly.

"If there was a colored man in the case, you can explain matters to
suit yourself. As for me, I believe you caught the horse yourself and
wanted to do what you could to keep him."

"How dare you!" cried the blacksmith, with a threatening gesture. "Do
you take me for a thief?"

"Never mind what I take you for. That is my horse, and I am going to
take him away."

And undaunted by the blacksmith's manner, Matt marched out into the
yard, and untied Billy, who was covered with sweat, and still
trembling from fright.

"It's playing a bold game you are," grumbled the man of the anvil, as
the boy led the horse through the blacksmith-shop toward the front
door. "I reckon you think you are mighty smart."

"One has to be smart to deal with such a man as you!" retorted Matt.
"Had you done the fair thing at the start, I might have rewarded you
for stopping the horse, but as it is, I don't believe you deserve a
cent."

And with this parting shot, which, by the way was fully deserved by
the dishonest blacksmith, Matt sprang upon Billy's back and rode off.

When the boy reached the alleyway again he found that the fire
department had gotten the fire under control, and that much of the
crowd of people had gone on about their business. In the space around
the wagon several cabmen were busy getting out their horses and cabs,
all thankful that their turnouts and animals had not been consumed by
the conflagration, which had all but leveled the great stable to the
ground.

Andy was seated on the wagon, anxiously awaiting his return. While the
two harnessed Billy into place, Matt told his partner of the trouble
he had experienced.

"That blacksmith meant to bluff you off and keep the horse," said the
auctioneer. "If you hadn't come back soon I would have gone off after
you."

"Is the wagon damaged?" questioned Matt anxiously.

"Not in the slightest. I have examined everything carefully. And the
stock is O. K. too. We can start off just as if nothing had
happened."

"But we haven't decided yet as to just where we are to go," returned
the boy.

"Oh, that reminds me!" cried Andy. "I meant to tell you before, but
the fire drove it clean out of my head. I saw a fellow yesterday who
is going to strike out up through Harlem to-morrow. He was going to
take the very route I had thought out. So I was going to propose that
we take the ferry over to Jersey City, and strike out through New
Jersey first."

"Well, one way will suit me just as well as another," returned Matt.
"So New Jersey it is."

In less than five minutes later they were ready to start. The owner of
the stable, nearly distracted over his loss, was around, and into his
hand they thrust the money they owed him. Then Matt procured his
valise, and without waiting to be questioned by the police and the
firemen any more than was necessary, they drove off.

"Not a very favorable start," was Andy's comment, as the scene of the
conflagration was left behind. "But they say 'a bad beginning makes a
good ending,' so we ought not to lose heart."

"Lose heart!" cried Matt lightly. "No, indeed! I am thankful we are
able to start, even though we do look like a couple of tramps," he
added with a grin.

"We'll take a wash-up when we are across the ferry. We'll have lots of
time, for we won't be able to do any business to-day. We must get at
least twenty or thirty miles from New York before we attempt to open
up."

The drive down to Cortlandt street ferry was an uneventful one through
the crowded streets. A boat had just come in when they reached the
ferry-house, and after paying the fare, they drove upon this, and were
soon on their way to the New Jersey shore.

"Do you know the road?" asked Matt, as they tied up upon an open
street on the other side, and went into the great ferry-house to wash
and brush up.

"I know the roads through Newark and Elizabeth," returned Andrew
Dilks. "I think we had better strike along the New Jersey Central
Railroad as far as Bound Brook or Somerville, and then strike through
Flemington, and across to the Delaware River, and so on into
Pennsylvania."

"That suits me," returned Matt.

It was exactly half-past ten o'clock when they left the vicinity of
the ferry in Jersey City, and moved off toward the old plank road, so
called, which leads to Newark, five miles distant. Both were in
excellent spirits, despite the thrilling experience through which they
had passed.

"I have here a list of all the articles we have in stock," said Andy,
as he set Billy on a brisk trot. "You had better study it. The prices
are also put down, and of course, we never will auction a thing off
for less, unless it is unsalable otherwise and we wish to dispose of
it."

"But supposing a thing is put up and people won't bid above a certain
figure?"

"We will buy it in ourselves, or get some one to bid for us, or else
refuse to take a bid under a certain sum."

Matt took the sheet of paper, and resting on the box in the back of
the wagon, began to study it carefully, and so absorbed did he become
that he did not notice when Newark was reached, and was only aroused
when Andy drew up in front of a restaurant and asked him if he did not
feel like having some dinner.

"You can just bet I do!" exclaimed Matt. "The fire and the drive have
made me as hungry as a bear."

The restaurant was not a very large place, and but few customers were
present. They ordered what they wished, and it was soon brought to
them.

"I didn't want to go to one of those high-toned places where they
charge big prices," observed Andy, as he began to fall to. "We can't
afford to cut a spread until we see how our venture is going to pan
out."

"You are right there," returned Matt. "As it is, I think our supply of
cash is getting mighty low."

"I notice the knives and forks are rather rusty here," went on Andy.
"I wonder if I can't sell the proprietor some table cutlery. We have
some on board that is both cheap and good."

"I'd try it by all means," cried Matt heartily.

So when the meal was concluded Andrew Dilks walked up to the
proprietor, who was also cashier, and paid their bill. Then he asked
the man if he did not think some new knives and forks would be
appreciated by his customers.

"I have no doubt but what they would be," returned the restaurant
keeper. "But they cost too much money, and times are rather hard."

"I can sell you some cheap," returned Andy, and he mentioned his
price.

The restaurant man smiled.

"Too cheap to be good," he said. "I must have some that will stand the
wear."

"Let me show you them. Matt, go out and bring in a few dozen of the
No. 23 knives and forks, and also some of the X23 spoons," went on
Andy briskly.

Matt at once complied, and his partner continued to talk to the
restaurant keeper, thus keeping his attention. When the articles were
brought Andy invited the prospective purchaser to make a thorough
examination of them.

"Send a couple down to the kitchen and have them scoured. They are
triple-plated, and will stand it," he added.

Andy's business-like way pleased the restaurant keeper, and after a
little more talk he purchased three dozen each of knives and forks and
two dozen spoons.

The price was paid over, and both Andy and Matt were congratulating
themselves on their good luck, when a man who had been standing near
the window of the restaurant peering in stepped inside and tapped both
on the shoulder.

"I would like to see your license for selling," he said sternly.



CHAPTER XI.

HARSH TREATMENT.


Both Matt and Andy were considerably taken aback by the unexpected
demand of the stranger. When they had come to Newark they had not
expected to sell anything, and therefore had not given the question of
a license a single thought.

"Excuse me, but I am sorry to state we have no license," returned Andy
frankly. "We did not expect to make any sales here, but were going
straight through to Elizabeth."

"Very likely," sneered the man, who was a special officer attached to
the police department. "But I saw you make the sale, and you must come
with me."

"Oh, Andy, let us pay the license," exclaimed Matt, in a low voice, as
visions of a week or a month in jail floated before his mind. It would
be simply terrible to be locked up.

"That's what we will have to do," returned Andy, who had been through
such a predicament before, and was not, therefore, greatly alarmed.
"Don't be afraid; we will come out all right. Only it will cost us two
or three dollars."

"I don't care if it costs fifty--I don't want to run afoul of the
law," returned Matt bluntly.

"Nor do I," returned his partner.

"Well, what do you say?" demanded the officer sharply.

"We will go with you and pay the license," replied Andy.

"All right."

"Will you ride with us?"

"Don't care if I do," said the officer, and all three hopped on the
wagon seat, and Matt drove off.

The office where licenses could be procured was at the City Hall, on
Broad Street. When they turned into that thoroughfare Matt uttered a
cry of surprise.

"What a broad street!" he exclaimed, as he surveyed it.

"It is one of the broadest in any eastern city," returned the officer,
who seemed inclined to be more friendly now that they had shown a
disposition to do the right thing.

Inside of the City Hall they were compelled to wait near half an hour
before they could procure their license. Then they were asked for how
long a term they desired it.

"For to-day only," returned Andy, and so it was made out and as
quickly paid for.

"Oh, but I'm glad we are out of that scrape so easily!" murmured Matt,
as the two walked back to their wagon. "I was afraid they would lock
us up for ten days or a month."

"They would have their hands full locking up all the peddlers who try
to sell goods without a license," laughed Andy. "All they care for is
the money."

"We will have to pay in almost every town we go, won't we?"

"Yes, every town. Some places charge so much that we won't try to sell
in them. I'll make it a point after this to find out about a license
as soon as we enter a place."

"Yes, do that by all means," returned Matt, much relieved.

Now that they had a license good for the balance of the day, Matt
moved that they remain in Newark and try to make more sales.

"Let us try all the restaurants," he said. "We may be able to sell
more of those knives and forks and spoons."

"I am willing," said Andy. "This isn't exactly auctioneering, but it
pays just as well, so we have no cause to grumble."

They turned back into the business portion of the city and drove along
slowly until two restaurants, directly opposite to each other, were
reached.

"I'll take one and you can take the other," said Andy. "Be sure and
sell all you can," he added, with a laugh.

Matt nodded, and with half a dozen samples under his arm, he entered
the restaurant on the right.

It must be confessed that the boy's heart beat rather fast. This was
the first time he had endeavored to effect a sale solely on his own
responsibility. Moreover, Andy was pitted against him, trying to sell
goods in a similar way to similar people.

"I must do as well as he," thought Matt. "If I don't he may imagine I
am not worthy of being an equal partner in the concern."

The place Matt had entered was handsomely fitted up in the latest
style. It was quite large, but at this hour of the day was but
scantily patronized. In the back half a dozen waiters were discussing
the merits of certain race horses, while behind the cashier's desk a
young man, with an enormous diamond, was reading a copy of a
sensational weekly.

A waiter rushed forward to conduct Matt to a seat at one of the
tables, but the boy shook his head and turned to the desk.

"Can I see the proprietor?" he asked.

The clerk had laid down his paper and gave Matt an ugly stare before
replying.

"So you are another one of them," he said slowly, as he surveyed the
boy from head to foot.

Matt was somewhat mystified by this, but smiled pleasantly.

"I suppose I am--if you say so," he said. "Did you say the proprietor
was in?"

"No, I didn't say so. Say, you'll wish you hadn't come here if old
Mattison gives you a chance," went on the young man, in a lower
voice.

"Why will I wish that?" questioned Matt, more mystified than ever.

"Because he's a tough customer to get along with."

"But if my goods and the price suit, why, it ought to be all right."

"Goods and price? What are you talking about?" demanded the young man
quickly.

"The goods I have to sell--knives, forks, and spoons."

"Oh, pshaw! I thought you were another of those chumps that want my
place here. Old Mattison gave me notice to quit next Saturday, and
put an advertisement in the paper for a new clerk, and there have been
about a dozen here already."

"And none of them suit?"

"Suit! He's a man that is never suited."

"Then perhaps I won't be able to sell him any goods," returned Matt,
his heart sinking.

"It ain't likely. Business is poor, and he ain't buying more than he
can help. You can try him, though."

"Where is he?"

"I'll call him."

The young man behind the desk rang the bell for one of the waiters,
and sent that individual upstairs for the proprietor. The waiter was
gone nearly five minutes before he returned, accompanied by a short,
stout man, with bushy black hair and a heavy beard.

"Well, sir, what can I do for you?" asked the man of Matt.

"If you are not too busy I would like to show you some goods which are
both good and very cheap," returned Matt, as easily as he could, and
without waiting for a reply he unrolled his package of samples, and
placed them upon the desk.

"And is that what you called me downstairs for?" cried the proprietor
of the restaurant, in a rage. "Make me throw down a good hand at cards
just to look at a lot of tin knives and forks! You peddlers are
getting more bold every day. The police ought to sit down on every one
of you!"

"I am sorry if I disturbed your leisure," returned Matt, as mildly as
he could. "But, I thought----"

"You thought you would just like to cheat me into buying a lot of your
trash," finished the restaurant proprietor. "Well, you can't do
anything of the kind, and you can take that for your impudence!"

And hastily gathering up the package of samples, the restaurant keeper
walked to the open doorway and flung knives, forks and spoons into the
muddy gutter!



CHAPTER XII.

MATT STANDS UP FOR HIMSELF.


It was evident, by the self-satisfied look upon the restaurant-keeper's
face, that the hot-tempered man supposed that he had done a very
smart thing in thus disposing of Matt's wares by throwing the bundle
into the muddy gutter of the street.

"Now pick up your goods and skip out!" he cried, as he turned to the
boy. "And the next time you be careful how you disturb folks when they
are trying to take it a little easy!"

For the instant Matt was stupefied, and stood still, hardly moving a
muscle.

Then the boy's natural temper arose to the surface, and for the moment
he felt as if he must fly at the man and pound him in the face just as
hard as he could. His face grew first red and then deadly pale. The
man saw the change in his countenance, saw the fire flash in the boy's
eyes, and stopped short just as he was about to repeat his injunction
to leave the establishment.

"You are a--a brute!" exclaimed Matt, stepping forward with clinched
fists.

"What's that?" cried the restaurant-keeper, so loudly that several
customers and a number of the waiters gathered round to learn the
cause of the trouble.

"I say you are a brute!" repeated Matt, undaunted by the fierce look
the restaurant-keeper had assumed. "If you did not wish to buy from me
you could have said so. There was no need for you to throw my goods in
the gutter."

"Shut up and clear out!" growled the man. "I want no back talk from
the likes of you. Do you suppose I buy from beggars and thieves?"

"I am neither a beggar nor a thief!" returned Matt striding still
closer. "And I won't allow you nor any one else to say so."

"Oh, you won't?" sneered the man.

"No, I won't," answered Matt firmly. "My business is just as honest
and honorable as yours, even though I may not make such enormous
profits," he added, bound in some way to "get square."

"See here, are you going to get out, or must I pitch you out?" howled
the man more savagely than ever.

For the moment Matt did not reply. He was very angry, but knew it
would do him more harm than good to lose his temper. Yet he was not
the person to allow the insults he had received to pass unnoticed.

"I will get out just as soon as you restore my goods to me," he said.
"You had no right whatever to throw them into the gutter and soil
them."

"What?"

"And let me say, too, that I expect my goods to come back to me just
as clean as they were when you took them."

"You say another word and I'll stand you on your head!" fumed the
proprietor of the restaurant, but the look in Matt's eyes kept him
from laying hands upon the boy.

"If you dare to touch me I'll call in the police," replied Matt, more
sharply than ever. "I have a license, and by that license the police
are bound to protect me. Now, you get my goods back for me and I'll
leave."

"I'll see you in Jericho first!"

"Very well; but remember, if anything is lost or damaged, you'll pay
the bill."

"Good for the boy!" exclaimed one of the men who had just been
lunching in the place. "I like to see a fellow stick up for his
rights."

"See here, I want no outside interference here!" blustered the
restaurant-keeper. "I am fully capable of attending to this affair
myself."

"Well, I'm going to see that the boy gets a show," returned the other
coolly, as he paid the amount of his check and lit a cigar taken from
his pocket. "I don't think it was a fair deal to throw his stuff in
the gutter."

"It wasn't," put in another customer. "He's got to make a living, just
the same as all of us."

"Oh, don't talk!" cried the restaurant-keeper, waving them away with
his hand. "Come, now, no more talk!" he went on to Matt. "Go, before I
have you thrown out."

"I won't budge a step, excepting it is to call the police," returned
Matt, more firmly than ever, now that he saw he had friends in the
crowd. "I'll give you just five minutes to give me back my goods."

The restaurant-keeper began to bluster and threaten, and even sent a
waiter out, ostensibly to call in a policeman. But Matt was not
frightened, and in the end another waiter was sent to gather up the
sample goods, wipe them off and restore them to the boy.

"Good for you, boy!" said one of the customers, as he followed Matt
out upon the sidewalk. "Always stick up for your rights," and he
nodded pleasantly and passed on.

When Matt reached the wagon he found Andy had not yet come back. He
accordingly looked around, and seeing another restaurant about half a
block further down the street entered it.

He found the proprietor behind the desk, laughing quietly to himself.
He had heard of what had happened in his neighbor's place, and was
immensely tickled thereby.

"Hullo! ain't you the boy that had the row with Mattison?" he
exclaimed in surprise.

"I had some trouble with that man," said Matt. "But it was not my
fault, I can assure you."

"You came out ahead, didn't you? Ha! ha! ha! It does me good to hear
it. Tell me how the row started."

Matt did so, and was compelled to go into all the details, to which
the man listened with keen interest.

"Served him right! He can get along with nobody. But you are a clever
one, too."

"Thank you," replied Matt.

And then he began to talk business, showing up his somewhat bedimmed
samples to the best possible advantage, and quoting prices in a manner
that made the restaurant-keeper think he was an old hand at the
business.

The man was not particularly in need of anything, but he liked Matt's
way, and thought it was worth something to have a good story to tell
to his rival's discredit. He bought four dozen triple-plated spoons
and a carving-knife, and then Matt persuaded him to invest in a new
toothpick holder, and a match holder of aluminum, which were both very
pretty and cheap.

"Just an even seven dollars!" thought Matt, as he hurried back to the
wagon. "I don't think that so bad. Our profits on that sale ought to
be at least two dollars."

Andy was waiting for him. He had sold, after a good deal of hard
talking, a dozen knives and forks, upon which he had been forced to
make a slight discount. He listened to Matt's story in amazement.

"Seven dollars' worth! That's fine, Matt! You must be a born salesman.
Keep right on, by all means."

"But I don't expect any such luck every time," returned the boy, and
then he told the story of his troubles in the first restaurant he had
visited.

"It was plucky in you to stick out as you did," was Andy's comment. "I
don't believe I could have done it. I would have gone out and picked
up the things myself."

"I wouldn't, never!" cried Matt, and his whole face showed the spirit
within him.

It was only four o'clock in the afternoon, and Andy suggested that
they continue to try their luck until sundown. So they drove on down
the street slowly, visiting every restaurant and many stores on the
way.

In one place Matt sold a dozen spoons, and in another a fancy
water-pitcher. Andy sold some spoons also, and a cheap watch and
chain, which the buyer explained he intended to sell to some customer
for double the money.

At the last place at which they stopped Andy made arrangements to
remain all night. A stable was also found for Billy and the wagon, and
by eight o'clock the partners found themselves free from business
cares. Matt moved that they have supper, and to this Andy willingly
agreed.

While the two were waiting for their orders to be filled, Andy brought
out a bit of paper and a pencil and began to figure.

"The net receipts for the day were eighteen dollars and a half," he
said, when he had finished. "The goods and the license cost thirteen
dollars and sixty cents. That leaves a profit of four dollars and
ninety cents, which is not so bad, considering that we only worked
about five hours all told."

"And what were our expenses?" asked Matt.

Andy did a little more figuring.

"Expenses from this morning until to-morrow morning, including this
supper, about two dollars and thirty cents."

"Then we have two dollars and sixty cents over all?"

"Yes, that is, without counting wear and tear on wagon, harness, and
so forth."

"Of course. But that isn't so bad."

"Indeed it is not," returned Andy. "If we do as well as that every day
we shall get along very well, although I trust to do even better."



CHAPTER XIII.

THE CORN SALVE DOCTOR.


After supper the two partners found that time hung a little heavily
upon their hands. Matt suggested that they walk around the city a bit,
taking in the sights, but Andy was too tired.

"I'll tell you what I will do, though," said the older member of the
firm. "I'll get one of the accordions out and you can get a banjo, and
we can practice a little. There is nothing like being prepared for an
emergency, you know."

"That is true, and we'll have to brush up quite a bit if we wish to
play in public," laughed Matt.

He accompanied Andy to the barn where the wagon was stored, and they
brought not only the accordion and the banjo, but also a violin and a
mouth harmonica.

These instruments they took to the bedroom which had been assigned to
them, and here, while it was yet early, they tuned up and began to
practice upon such simple tunes as both knew by heart. Matt first
tried the banjo, and after he had it in tune with the accordion, the
partners played half a dozen selections quite creditably.

"We wouldn't do for grand opera soloists, but I guess it will be good
enough to attract crowds in small country towns," laughed Andy, as he
ground out a lively German waltz.

"Supposing we try the violin and banjo," suggested Matt, and Andy took
up the king of instruments.

But this did not go so well, and it was not long before Andy turned
back to the accordion, which, according to his statement, half-played
itself. Matt tried the mouth harmonica, and surprised not only Andy,
but half a dozen listeners, by the wonderful effects he produced upon
the little instrument.

"Good for you!" shouted Andy, as Matt finished a particularly clever
selection. "If the auction business fails, you can go on the variety
stage."

"No, thank you," returned Matt. "I understand enough about it to know
that it is little better than a dog's life. I just as lief stick to
what I'm doing, or become a traveling order salesman for some big New
York house."

"Well, I don't know but what that shows your level-headedness,"
returned Andy.

The two slept soundly that night. Matt was up at five o'clock the
next morning, and he at once aroused his partner. They had an early
breakfast, and then walked around to the stable where the wagon was
housed.

While they were hitching up Billy a middle-aged man, rather slouchy in
appearance, came shuffling in.

"Are you the two young fellers what's running this here auction
wagon?" he began, addressing Matt.

"We are," returned the boy. "What do you want?"

"Pretty good business, ain't it?" went on the stranger, without
answering the question which had been put.

"Sometimes it is."

"I reckon there's a heap of money in it," proceeded the shabby
stranger.

"Well, we are not yet millionaires," put in Andy, with a pleasant
laugh.

"I know a feller what made a pile of money in the auction business,"
remarked the man as he ejected a quantity of tobacco juice from his
mouth. "He was a rip-snorter at it, though--could talk a table into
walking off--and keep it up all day and half the night."

To this statement Matt and Andy made no reply. Neither liked the
looks of the newcomer, and both wished he would go away.

"Say, you don't want to take a fellow in, do you?" asked the man,
after a slight pause, as he came close beside Matt, who was nearest to
him.

"No, we haven't any work for an outsider," returned the boy.

"I'm a rustler when I get a-going, let me tell you. I can tell stories
and sing and sell more goods than any one has any idea of. Besides
that, I've got a new corn salve I put up myself which goes like hot
cakes. Barberry's Lightning Salve, I call it--my name is Paul
Barberry, you know--Dr. Barberry, most of 'em call me. Say the word,
and I'll go with you and put up my salve against your outfit, and
we'll share and share alike."

"As I said before, we have no room for an outsider," returned Matt,
while Andy nodded approvingly. "The wagon seat only holds two, and
besides, our plans are all completed for our trip."

"Humph!" The man's face took on a sour look. "You are missing the
chance of your lives."

"We'll risk it," laughed Andy.

"I can sell more salve than you can sell other goods every day in the
week--and make more money, too."

"Then you had better start alone--and at once," returned Andy
shortly.

"I will--if you fellers won't take me in as a working partner. I made
the suggestion only because I thought it would be more pleasant to
travel in a company of three."

"We are satisfied to go it without outside assistance," cried Matt, as
he hopped on the seat. "All ready, Andy?"

"Yes, go on," returned his partner, climbing up beside him.

"Then you won't make a deal with me?" questioned Paul Barberry more
sourly than ever.

"No," replied Matt and Andy in a breath, and while one gathered up the
lines the other spoke to the horse, and the turn-out began to leave
the stable.

"All right," shouted Paul Barberry. "You may be sorry for it. You
young fellows think you know it all, but you may get tripped up badly
before long," and picking up an ancient and decidedly rusty
traveling-bag which he possessed, the corn salve doctor trudged away
up the street.

"What a forward man!" exclaimed Matt, as they moved off. "Why, he
actually wanted to force himself on us!"

"There are a good many such fellows on the road," returned Andy. "The
moment they see some one who appears to be prospering, they try their
best to get in with him. I dare say that Dr. Paul Barberry is about
broke, and would consider it a windfall of fortune to be taken in by
the owners and managers of the Eureka Auction Co."

"I wonder if we'll meet him again," mused Matt, as he looked back just
in time to see the shabby figure disappear around a corner.

"Oh, he may turn up again; such fellows very often do," replied Andy.

But neither he nor Matt dreamed of the peculiar circumstances under
which they would again come in contact with Paul Barberry.

The day was warm and bright, and Billy, the horse, appeared in
excellent spirits by the way he trotted along over the macadamized
road from Newark to Elizabeth.

It was not their intention to stop at the latter place, but just as
they reached the outskirts of the city Billy began to limp, and they
saw that one of his shoes had become loose.

"We'll have to take him around to a blacksmith shop," said Andy, and
they accordingly drove on until such a place was reached.

Here they found they would have to wait until dinner-time before the
shoe could be refitted. Rather than go to the trouble and expense of
getting a license, however, they decided to spend the time in walking
around.

"This is one of the oldest towns in New Jersey," remarked Andy, as
they walked around the depots and down Broad Street, the main
thoroughfare. "Down along the water front is one of the largest sewing
machine factories in the world. I was through it once and I can tell
you it was a sight well worth seeing."

Just before twelve o'clock they stopped in a restaurant not far from
the blacksmith shop, and had dinner. By the time this was over Billy's
shoe had been readjusted, and once more they were off.

It was easy driving along the smooth country road, and after passing
through Cranford, Westfield and several smaller places, they struck
out for Plainfield, which Andy declared was to be their first regular
stopping place.

"It is a fair-sized city," he said. "And if we can strike the right
stand we ought to do well there for several days or a week."

"I hope we do well," returned Matt. "We need a good start, for as yet
our ready funds are rather low."

"You will have your first chance to do a bit of regular auctioneering,"
smiled Andy. "I trust you are not nervous over the prospects."

"Never mind if I am," returned Matt bravely. "I am going to do my
best. If I get nervous I'll get over it just as quickly as I can."

Some time before sundown they entered Plainfield; half an hour later
they found a suitable stopping place, and then Andy went off to secure
some stand where they might do business.

He came back in an hour and stated that he had secured an empty store,
which would be much better than selling from the wagon.

"The store will only cost us a dollar a day as long as we use it, and
we ought to be able to make that much more out of it," he said.

They went to work that night transferring the stock from the wagon to
the store shelves, and when this was finished both set to work to wash
and dress the show window.

On the following morning at ten o'clock, they hung out a red flag, and
then the Eureka Auction Co. was ready for business.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE YOUNG AUCTIONEER.


"I feel like a cat in a strange garret!" exclaimed Matt, as he walked
up and down behind the counter on a raised platform he and Andy had
placed there. "This is like going into cold water an inch at a time. I
would rather plunge in head first."

"Then here goes," cried Andy, catching up an accordion that stood
close at hand. "Let us see what we can do toward drawing a crowd in.
There must be something going on, for the streets are filling up with
people."

"There is a cheap circus to exhibit. I saw the posters. Perhaps they
intend to give a parade."

"Most likely. Get your banjo, Matt, and let us give them our best
selection."

Matt did as requested; and as the music rang out those on the pavement
began to pause, and half a dozen stopped at the open door and peered
in.

"Come right in! Come right in!" shouted Andy. "The auction is now
about to begin, and you don't want to miss the chance of your lives!"

"Plenty of room for everybody!" shouted Matt directly after him. His
voice was a trifle unsteady through excitement. "Don't wait outside,
but secure a good place, where you can hear and see all that is going
on. You need not buy if you do not wish. One more tune, ladies and
gentlemen, and then we will show you the best bargains ever exhibited
in this city. That's right, come right in!"

Thus urged, the folks began to drift in, singly and in pairs, until,
when the next tune was finished, the store held perhaps twenty-five
men, women and boys. Several children had tried to enter, but Andy had
shook his head at them, and thus kept them outside.

"Say, what's them pocket-knives worth?" asked one old man evidently
from the country, as he pointed to a board stuck full of the
glittering blades.

"Which knife, sir?" asked Matt, in a business-like way.

"That one with the buckhorn handle and prunin' blade."

"That sir, is one of our best knives. Well made, of the best steel,
and one that ought to last you a good many years. What do you offer
for it, sir?"

"Offer?" repeated the old man in astonishment.

"Yes, sir, make an offer, please."

"Ain't you got no price sot on it?"

"No, sir; this is an auction store, and we take what we can get for a
thing. Come, make an offer."

"I'll give ye a quarter for it," said the old man after considerable
hesitation.

"A quarter I am offered for this beautiful knife!" shouted Matt,
taking up the blade and holding it up so that all might see it. "It is
a knife with four strong blades, a buckhorn handle, well riveted, and
extra-tempered springs, fully warranted. A quarter, ladies and
gentlemen; who says thirty cents?"

"Thirty!" returned a young man, after an examination of the knife.

"Thirty cents I am offered. Thirty! thirty! Some one make it
thirty-five----"

"Thirty-five cents!" put in the old countryman. "I guess that knife is
wuth that to me."

"Forty!" said the young man promptly. He appeared to be rich, and was
bidding more to tease the old countryman than because he desired the
knife.

[Illustration: THE YOUNG AUCTIONEERS AT WORK.    Y. A.]

"Forty I am offered!" sang out Matt, who did not care who obtained
the knife, so long as a good figure was reached. "Forty! forty! Come,
gentlemen, a bit higher than that, please!"

"Forty-five cents, and that's more than a good price," grumbled the
old countryman, who had, however, set his heart on the knife the
moment he had first seen it.

"Half a dollar!" sang out the young man promptly.

"Fifty cents I am offered!" went on Matt, in a business-like way.
"Fifty cents, gentlemen, for a knife that ought to be in every one's
pocket--a knife worth having! Who says seventy-five!"

Matt knew very well that no one in the crowd would make such a jump,
but he hoped to cause the old man to bid again, and his hope was
realized. Instead of going to fifty-five, the countryman offered sixty
cents.

He had hardly made the offer when the young man, thinking he had
aroused the old man to a state of recklessness in which he would keep
on bidding, offered seventy-five cents for the knife.

"Seventy-five cents I am offered!" cried Matt. "Who makes it a
dollar--ninety--eight-five--eighty?" and he glanced inquiringly at the
old countryman.

But the old man shook his head.

"Not a penny over seventy-five cents," he muttered in a low tone.

"Seventy-five!" went on Matt. "Come, now, raise it just a bit! The
knife is really worth it. Who says eighty? Seventy-five-five-five!
Last call, remember! Going, going--gone! to that young man for
seventy-five cents!"

And Matt held out the knife to the last bidder, and motioned to Andy
to collect the money.

The young man grew red and drew back.

"Oh, pshaw! I didn't want the knife!" he grumbled. "Put it up again,
maybe you'll get a bigger price for it," and he began to edge his way
toward the door.

"Hold on! Not so fast!" said Andy, in a low voice, as he caught him by
the arm. "This company doesn't do business that way. If you did not
wish the knife you should not have bid for it. We are not running this
store for fun."

The young man looked at him impudently. But the clear, stern eyes of
Matt's partner made him wilt, and muttering something under his breath
about getting square, he paid over the amount, took the knife, and
sneaked out of the now crowded store.

In the meantime, the old countryman was about to leave, disappointed
over his failure to secure the prize he coveted. He wished just such
a knife, and knew that he would have to pay a dollar or more at the
hardware store for it.

"Wait a minute, please," said Matt to him. "I have another such a
knife. If you wish it you can have it at the same figure that the
young man paid."

"Let's look at the knife."

The countryman made a careful examination of the blade, and finally
agreed to take it.

"I'll send my son Tom around for an accordion," he said, before
leaving. "He's dead stuck on music, Tom is."

"Thank you, we shall be pleased to see him," returned Matt politely,
and the old countryman went off much pleased over the way he had been
treated.

At a word from Andy, Matt brought the entire board of knives out so
that all might examine them.

"Seventy-five cents was the auction price," he explained. "So any one
can step up and take his or her choice for that amount. They are well
worth your inspection. Any of the knives will stick, but you can't get
stuck on a single one of them."

This little joke made the crowd laugh, and a dozen or more pressed
forward to look at the knives. One young man bought a pearl-handled
article, and a young lady bought one which contained a lead pencil and
a button-hook.

While Matt was making these sales Andy was busy showing off the merits
of several articles of bric-a-brac which a bevy of ladies were
admiring. He told them how he had obtained them at a sacrifice sale,
and was thus enabled to sell them quite reasonable. The lady who led
the party did not wish to bid on the articles at auction, so Andy very
obligingly set a figure, and after some little haggling, the lady took
three dollars' worth of goods, to be delivered at her house on the
outskirts of the city.

By this time both of the young auctioneers were certain that they were
going to have a good day's sales.

"That circus has brought the people out," whispered Andy to Matt. "We
were very fortunate to strike here when we did. We must make the most
of the day."

"What shall I try next?" asked Matt. "I have sold four of the
knives."

"Try something small, for they won't want to carry bulky packages with
them. I see there are a lot of young fellows drifting in. You might
get out the mouth harmonicas and interest them in them. I'll show
those ladies the jewelry, and try to make some more private sales."

To this Matt agreed, and he was soon playing a lively air that caused
all of the young men and boys to gather around him.

"Any one can play if he has music in him and such an instrument as
this in his possession," he argued, after he had finished. "To show
that it is all right and in perfect tune, I will put up the one I have
been playing upon. How much am I offered?"

"Ten cents!" cried a boy standing close at hand.

"Ten cents I am offered. Ten ce----"

Matt got no farther, for at that moment a loud cry upon the street
drowned out every other sound.

"Look out for the bear! He is mad!"

"He is coming this way!"

"Scatter for your lives!"

These and a hundred other cries rent the air. Then came a crash of
window glass, and the next moment a huge brown bear leaped into the
show window, not over two yards away from where Matt was standing.



CHAPTER XV.

THE CHARMS OF MUSIC.


For the moment after the brown bear crashed through the glass and
landed in the show window of the auction store Matt was too astonished
to move.

The entrance of the great beast, which had undoubtedly escaped from
the circus men during the parade, was so totally unexpected that all
in the place were too paralyzed with fear to move.

Screams of terror rent the air, and to these the brown bear added a
growl which was both deep and angry.

Andy, who stood some distance behind Matt, was the first to do any
rational talking.

"Grab the pistol, Matt!" he exclaimed. "Grab it quick!"

The weapon to which Andy referred was lying under the counter, just in
front of the boy. It had been purchased by the firm and placed there
in case some ugly person raised a dispute, or a sneak-thief tried to
run off with any article. Andy had said that the mere sight of a
pistol would often bring matters to terms when words had no effect.

Matt understood his partner's cry, and he lost no time in acting upon
it. He caught up the pistol, and at once aimed it at the bear's head.

Whether or not the beast understood that his life was in danger would
be hard to say, but no sooner had the weapon been pointed at him than
he arose on his hind legs and emitted a growl that was fairly
blood-curdling to the involuntary listeners.

Matt did not claim to be a crack shot, having had but slight
experience in pistol practice, and, even in that moment of peril, he
hesitated to shoot, fearful of missing the bear and striking some one
on the sidewalk outside.

"Clear the way out there!" he cried. "Clear the way, or you may get
shot!"

His words had the effect of scattering the few venturesome persons who
had collected to see what the bear might do. In the meantime those in
the store ran out of the open doors as quickly as they could. Andy
alone remained with his partner, arming himself with the longest
carving-knife the stock afforded.

Once on his hind legs the brown bear hesitated in his movements. He
was separated from Matt by five feet of space between the show window
and the raised platform upon which the boy stood. He did not seem to
wish to leap the span, nor did he appear inclined to step down to the
floor and then up upon the platform.

"Why don't you let him have it?" yelled Andy, as he saw Matt raise the
pistol and then lower it again.

"I don't believe he's so mad after all," returned the boy. "I'm not
going to shoot until I have to. Say!" he went on suddenly, "give him a
tune on one of the accordions."

"What's that?" gasped Andy in astonishment.

"Play him a tune. He may be a trained bear, and if so, the music may
soothe him."

Andy at once caught Matt's idea, and, taking up an accordion which
stood close at hand, he began a lively tune of a popular sort.

At the first bars of the tune the brown bear appeared surprised. He
raised himself up higher than ever on his hind legs, until his head
touched the top of the show window. Then he started as if to dance,
crashing over every article which was on exhibition. Finding he could
not dance in the limited space around him, he leaped to the pavement
outside, and there, to the bystanders' amazement and relief, began to
execute a clumsy jig.

"He's dancing, sure enough!" cried Andy. "That was a good idea of
yours, Matt."

"Keep it up until his keepers come," returned the boy. "Lively, now,
Andy, for playing means something."

Andy continued to play, and as the brown bear began to dance more
heartily than ever, the people, who a moment before had been so
frightened, gathered about and began to laugh.

"That's better than shooting him," remarked one man.

"Indeed, it is," returned another. "Keep it up, young fellow!"

And Andy did keep it up until two keepers appeared, hatless and almost
out of breath, and took the bear in charge.

"Doxie would have been all right," one of them explained; "but while
he was performing on the square below some mischievous boy threw some
pepper in his mouth."

"Yes, and Doxie went after him," added the other. "It's lucky for the
boy that he got out of sight, for had Doxie caught him he would have
chewed him up."

"I am very thankful that he did not do any further damage," said Matt.
"I thought I would have to shoot him," and he exhibited the pistol.

"It's lucky for you that you didn't shoot Doxie," cried the head
keeper. "You would have been a couple of hundred out of pocket."

"That reminds me," put in Andy. "Who is going to pay for that smashed
show window and the ruined goods?"

At this the faces of the two keepers fell. The brown bear had been in
their keeping, and they knew that the proprietor of the circus would
hold them responsible for any damage done.

"Well, that is not our fault," returned the head keeper blandly. "I
reckon you will have to bear the loss yourselves."

"Indeed, not!" cried Matt. "The owner of this bear will pay every
cent."

"Well, go on and see him, then," returned the keeper curtly, and
throwing a chain over the bear's head, he started to lead the animal
away.

"Hold on," said Andy quietly but firmly. "You will not take that bear
away until this matter is settled. Matt, see if you can find a
policeman."

A policeman was close at hand, and he was at once summoned. A long
altercation followed, in which the keepers tried to disown any
responsibility in the matter.

"Whom does the bear belong to?" questioned Andy at last.

"Mr. Menville, the proprietor of the show."

"Then you leave him here until Mr. Menville comes for him," was the
quick reply. "Mr. Officer, please see to it that the bear is not taken
away. I think he might very easily be chained to that hitching-post by
the curb."

"Sure, an' Oi dunno about this!" exclaimed the policeman, an old
Irishman. "Ye had better let him take the baste away."

"No, he'll stay here until damages are settled," said Andy. "They do
not own the bear, and if they attempt to take him away arrest them
both."

Andy did not know if he was acting according to law or not, and, for
that matter, neither did the policeman. But the auctioneer's firm
stand had the desired effect, for the two keepers presently weakened,
and asked what it would cost to replace the window and the goods
spoiled.

A glazier was called in, and while he was figuring Matt and Andy went
over the stock. At the end of ten minutes it was found that sixteen
dollars would cover all loss. With much grumbling the circus men paid
the amount, and they were then permitted to lead the brown bear away.

"Quite a bit of excitement, I must say," was Matt's comment after it
was all over. "I don't want to go through any such scare again."

"Nor I," returned Andy. "But, see, there is quite a crowd gathered
around yet. Let us make the most of the chance."

"I am too unstrung to auction off any stuff," admitted Matt. "That
first scare was enough to take the heart right out of a fellow. You go
ahead if you wish, and I'll clean out the window and get things ready
for that new frame and glass."

So without further delay Andy began to address the people, and soon he
had the store once more filled. He kept on auctioning stuff off until
one o'clock in the afternoon, when the crowd thinned out, being
composed principally of folks who had come into the city to visit the
circus.

By that time Matt had set the carpenter and the glazier to work, and
the new woodwork and the glass were in. All it needed was a couple of
coats of paint, and the show window would be as good as new. The owner
of the building, having heard of the affair, came around to view the
situation, and expressed himself perfectly satisfied with what had
been done.

"And I'm glad you made them pay up on the spot," he said. "For if
those circus people had been allowed to leave town I would never have
gotten a cent."

And to show his gratitude, he bought a razor and strop for himself,
and a pair of scissors for his wife.

"There will not be much doing now until evening," said Andy to Matt.
"So we will have dinner and then one of us can deliver those articles
that lady bought."

"I'll deliver the stuff, Andy. I fancy the walk will brace me up more
than anything else would."

"Well, go on then," said Andy, and so, after he had had dinner, Matt
set out with the bundle of goods under his arm.

The way to the lady's house led past the circus, and with a natural
curiosity to see what was going on, Matt pushed his way through the
crowd to where a number of banners were stretched containing vivid
pictures of the many wonderful sights which the ticket seller said
could be seen within.

The boy was much interested in the slick way of speaking which the
ticket seller had, and to "gain points," as he called it, for the
auction business, he remained almost an hour listening to all that was
said.

He was about to leave the crowd when a well-dressed man who was
standing beside him pushed him a bit to one side, and then stooped to
pick something from the ground at Matt's feet.

It was a large pocket-book, and apparently well filled.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE CONFIDENCE MAN.


"By Jove! look at that!" cried the man, in a low tone, as he picked up
the pocket-book and surveyed it. "That's a find, isn't it?"

"It is, indeed," returned Matt. "How much is there in it?"

"Come with me and I'll see," said the man, and without waiting for
Matt to offer a reply, he caught the boy by the arm, and forced him
through the crowd to an open spot behind a large tree.

"I would like to know who lost this," went on the man, as he opened
the flap of the pocket-book, and gazed inside at the contents. "By
Jove! look at that pile of bills!" he went on, as he turned the
pocket-book around so that Matt might catch sight of what certainly
did look like twenty-five or thirty bank bills tucked away in one of
the pockets. "Must be a hundred dollars or more in it."

"The owner of that pocket-book will miss it," returned Matt. "You
ought to make an effort to find him."

"Of course! of course!" assented the man heartily. "I don't want to
keep anybody's money--not if I know it is theirs. Let me see if there
is a card in it."

He turned the pocket-book around and put his fingers first in one
pocket and then another.

"Not a blessed thing but that pile of bills," he went on. "Now, isn't
that strange?"

Then he suddenly drew from his vest pocket a gold watch and looked at
it.

"Quarter to three!" he exclaimed in a startled tone. "And I must catch
the three o'clock train for Baltimore! I haven't time to look up the
owner of this pocket-book, valuable as it is."

"You might take a later train," suggested Matt.

The man shook his head.

"No, I have an engagement in Baltimore immediately upon the arrival of
this train which I would not miss for a dozen such pocket-books."

"Then you'll have to take the money with you."

"I wouldn't feel just right about doing that," returned the man with a
bland smile. "I would feel like a thief. I'll tell you what I will
do," he went on smoothly and earnestly. "Give me twenty dollars, and
you take the pocket-book. Perhaps you won't be able to find an owner,
and then the money will all be yours, and if you do find an owner, he
will certainly offer more of a reward than twenty dollars."

"I take the pocket-book?" said Matt, considerably surprised by the
offer.

"Yes; I really can't wait, and I do not feel satisfied to take that
money with me."

"But, supposing I do not find the owner, do you not want part of the
money?"

"No; you can keep it all."

This certainly seemed a very liberal offer, and had Matt had less
experience of the world at large, he might have accepted on the spot.
But the apparent open-heartedness of the stranger only served to make
him more cautious.

"Let us count the money and see how much there is in the pocket-book,"
he remarked, hardly knowing what else to say.

"No, I haven't time to do that," said the stranger hastily. "As it is,
I have now barely ten minutes in which to get to the depot. If you
want to accept my offer, give me the twenty dollars, and I'll run for
the depot."

And the man moved around as if in the greatest hurry of his life.

"I haven't twenty dollars with me."

"Indeed! I thought you looked like a well-to-do young man----"

"I have twelve dollars----"

"Well--let that do, but be quick!"

And the stranger held out his hand for the amount.

"Never mind," remarked Matt, struck with an idea which he resolved to
carry out if he went into the scheme at all. "I'll take the money from
the pocket-book, and if I find the owner I will tell him how I came to
do it."

"No; don't you touch the contents of the pocket-book!" exclaimed the
stranger, hastily snatching the article in question from Matt's hand.
"That would not be right!"

"Yes, but I will make it right with the owner, if I----"

"I can't wait any longer for that train!" cried the stranger, and
without another word he placed the pocket-book into his coat-pocket
and disappeared into the crowd.

For the instant Matt stared after him, and then a light burst upon the
boy's mind.

"He is a confidence man and was trying to swindle me!" he murmured to
himself. "If that pocket-book contained much it was a single dollar
bill on a pile of green paper! How lucky I was not to jump at his
offer when he first made it!"

As soon as he had reached this conclusion, Matt made after the man.
But the crowd was too thick and too large to find him, and after a
quarter of an hour's search the young auctioneer gave it up.

It was now getting late, and as soon as he was satisfied that the
confidence man was gone, Matt hurried along on his errand.

He found that the lady who had purchased the goods had just reached
home. She had heard of the brown bear episode, and insisted upon Matt
giving her the particulars, which he did. She was very much interested
in his story, and after she had heard how the affair terminated she
plied him with questions concerning the auction business.

"You may think me very curious," she said at length. "But the reason I
ask is because my only son, Tom Inwold, ran away with a traveling
auctioneer about three months ago."

"Ran away?" repeated Matt.

"Yes; he got into a difficulty in school, and when I insisted that he
apologize to his teachers, he grew angry and left the house."

"How old was he?"

"Tom was fifteen last May."

"He was very young to become an auctioneer," smiled Matt. "I am
hardly old enough for the business."

"He has made a friend of this auctioneer--who used to stand up in a
wagon and sing songs, and then sell cheap jewelry--and he went off
with him one Saturday, when I thought he had gone to New York with his
uncle."

"And doesn't he want to come back?" asked Matt, deeply interested.

"I have never heard of him since he went away." Mrs. Inwold put her
handkerchief to her eyes to dry the tears which had started. "One
reason I wished these goods delivered was because I thought I might
get a chance to talk to you about Tom. You intend to travel from place
to place, do you not?"

"Yes, madam; we shall remain here but a few days."

"Then, perhaps, in your travels you may run across Tom. If you do I
wish you would tell him to send word home. He ought to come home of
himself, but I suppose he won't do that, he is so headstrong."

"I should think he would prefer a good home to traveling around with a
cheap jewelry man," was Matt's comment, as he looked around at the
comfortable house Mrs. Inwold occupied. "I know I would."

"Boys do not always know what is best for them," sighed the lady. "Tom
generally had his own way, and that made him headstrong. He is my only
son, and as his father is away most of the time, I suppose I treated
him more indulgently than was good for him."

"You have no idea where he and the jewelry man went?"

"Not the slightest. I notified the police and sent out several
detectives, but could learn nothing. The detectives told me that the
jewelry man was little better than a thief, and always covered his
tracks when he left a city, so that his victims could not trace him
up."

"That's most likely true. But I trust you do not take my partner and
me for such fellows," added Matt honestly.

"No; you look like a young gentleman, and the other young man was one,
too, I feel sure."

"We try to do things on the square. We never willfully misrepresent
what we sell--as many do."

"That is right, and if you keep on that way you will be bound to
prosper. No one ever yet gained much by resorting to trickery in
trying to get along."

Mrs. Inwold talked to Matt for quite awhile after this, and promised
to come down to the store and buy several other articles of which she
thought she stood in need. It was nearly five o'clock when the boy
left the mansion.

"A very nice lady," thought Matt, as he hurried back to the auction
store. "I hope I meet her son Tom some day. I'll tell him how she
feels about his going away, and advise him to return home without
delay. My gracious! you wouldn't catch me leaving a home like that in
order to put up with the hardships of the road!"



CHAPTER XVII.

THE STORM.


That evening Matt and Andy were kept busy until nearly eleven o'clock
selling goods to people that came from the circus. They put up nearly
every kind of article on their shelves, and only about half the stock
remained unsold when they finally closed and locked the doors.

"That circus was a windfall to us!" exclaimed Andy. "We would not have
done half as well had it not been in town."

"Maybe it would be a good idea to follow up the circus," suggested
Matt. "That seems to draw out the people more than anything else I
know of."

"We will follow the circus as much as we can, Matt. But there is one
thing I must do first."

"And what is that?"

"Take the first train back to New York in the morning and buy more
goods. Some of our best sellers are entirely gone."

"Then go by all means," returned Matt quickly.

"But can you get along alone?"

"I guess so. If I can't I'll lock up till you get back."

"All right, then. Now let us go over the stock and I'll make out a
list of what's wanted."

"Let us figure up what we have made," returned Matt quickly, for he
was anxious to know what the exact amount would be.

"Very well; I would like to know myself."

On a sheet of paper they had kept a record of every article sold, with
the price. Opposite these, Andy, who was more familiar with their cost
than Matt, placed the amount of profit on each. Then with his partner
leaning over his shoulder, he added the column up.

"Thirty-one dollars and a quarter!" exclaimed Matt, as he surveyed the
result of Andy's calculations. "Did we really make as much as that?"

"We did. Of course we must take out our personal expenses and Billy's
keep. That amounts to four dollars and a quarter nearly."

"That still leaves twenty-seven dollars for one day's work. At this
rate we'll get rich fast."

"We must not expect such luck every day, Matt. Remember, to-day was
circus day. We will have rainy days, and days spent in traveling,
during which we will not take in anything, while our expenses go on
just the same."

"But it's a good thing we didn't have that kind of a start, Andy. We
would have been 'busted' otherwise."

"You are right there," returned Andy.

By seven o'clock on the following morning he was on the way to New
York, leaving Matt to open the store alone. This the young auctioneer
did, and as trade was very quiet, Matt spent the time in cleaning up
such goods as had been handled, and tidying up generally.

Compared with the day before, the street was almost deserted, but
during the noon hour, when people were going to and coming from
dinner, Matt managed to start up a sale which lasted until nearly two
o'clock, and by which he disposed of over three dollars' worth of
goods at a good profit.

It was nearly seven o'clock when Andy returned. He had rushed matters
in New York, but had bought several bargains, especially one in
imitation cut glassware, which, when it arrived the next day, made a
pretty showing in the window.

They remained in Plainfield two days longer, and then loaded their
wagon once more and started on the road. They made brief stops at
Bound Brook and Somerville, doing fairly well at both places, and
then, just ten days after leaving the city, struck Flemington.

At this latter place they again came across Menville's circus, and as
a consequence did a big day's business. They intended to leave
Flemington on the day following, but after talking the matter over
decided to remain until the following Monday.

"On Monday morning you can strike across the country for High Bridge
alone, if you will," said Andy. "I can take another trip to New York,
and buy more goods and have them shipped direct to that place, or else
on to Phillipsburg, which shall be our last stopping place in New
Jersey."

To this Matt agreed, and on Saturday night all was made ready for an
early morning start on Monday. Sunday was a quiet day for both,
although they attended divine services, and took a long walk among the
farms outside of the town proper.

"By creation! but it looks like a storm," exclaimed Andy, on Monday
morning, as he jumped out of bed and aroused Matt.

"Well, if it rains we will have to make the most of it, I suppose,"
returned the boy philosophically. "It's a pity we haven't any
umbrellas to sell!"

"There! I'll put them on the list at once!" cried Andy, with a laugh.
"I declare, Matt, you are getting to be more of a business man every
day."

"If I am it's because I have such a good partner for a teacher,
Andy."

"Oh, nonsense," returned the young man, but nevertheless considerably
pleased to learn that Matt appreciated his efforts. "You are as bright
as any one on the road."

When they went down to the dining-room of the hotel at which they were
stopping it certainly did look like rain. Yet there was a brisk breeze
blowing, and several expressed themselves as certain that it would
pass around to the north of them.

Less than half an hour later Andy was on his way to the depot to catch
a train, and Matt hurried to the stable where Billy and the wagon
were.

"I'll get to High Bridge just as soon as I can," he said to himself.
"I have no desire to be caught in a thunder-storm on a strange country
road."

"You may get a bit wet, but that's all," remarked the stable-keeper,
as he saw the boy glance at the heavy clouds scurrying across the sky.
"That there storm, if it comes, which is doubtful, won't last half an
hour."

With this reassurance, if such it could be called, Matt saw to it that
all was in good condition, and sprang upon the seat. He had made
careful inquiries concerning the road, so that he might not go
astray--a thing easy to do in most parts of the country--and in a
short space of time he was out of the town and on the turnpike.

Had it been a pleasant day the boy would have enjoyed that drive
thoroughly, for it was through a most beautiful section of the
country. On both sides of the road were broad fields, dotted here and
there with patches of woods and bushes. Several brooks were also
crossed, and at one of these he stopped for a few minutes to watch a
trio of boys fishing.

But then the sky seemed to grow darker suddenly, and somewhat alarmed,
Matt whipped up Billy. The wind died out utterly, and the air grew
close and sultry.

"That means a heavy thunder-storm and nothing less," thought Matt. "I
wish I was near the journey's end instead of only about half through
with it."

Presently came a sudden and quite unexpected rush of wind, and a
second later a heavy dash of rain, which drove almost into the boy's
face.

Matt at once stopped driving, and adjusted the rubber blanket in front
of his seat. This was no easy job, for the wind kept increasing in
violence. He had barely completed the work when there came a crash of
thunder, and then the rain came down harder than ever.

"I wish I could find some shelter," he muttered to himself. "I would
willingly pay to be allowed to drive into some barn until this was
over. I hope none of the stock gets wet."

Matt tried to peer about him, but he could not see far, owing to the
sheets of rain which fell all around.

"We'll have to stick to the road until something comes in sight,
Billy," he said, addressing the shivering horse. "Get up old boy, and
step lively."

Thus addressed, the animal started on once more. But the rain
prevented him going as fast as before. The ground was very heavy, and
the road in spots was covered with water which had not time to run
off, so heavy was the downpour.

Presently they came to where the road ran through a heavy bit of
timber. Here it was almost as dark as night, and the branches of the
trees, laden with water, hung down so low that many swept the wagon as
the turn-out went by.

"Ugh! I wish we were out of this!" muttered Matt, as he tried in vain
to pierce the gloom ahead. "You must find the road, Billy, for I can't
see it----"

[Illustration: A PERILOUS DRIVE.    Y. A.]

A terrific crash of thunder drowned out the last words. Billy sprang
forward in alarm, and away went the wagon over rocks and decaying
tree trunks.

"Whoa!" shouted Matt. "Whoa, Billy, whoa! You have left the road, old
boy! Whoa!"

But now a blinding flash of lightning lit up the scene, and then came
another crash of thunder, even louder than before. Billy reared up,
and then came down with a leap. On the instant he was off, like a
rocket, over bushes, logs and rocks, dragging the swaying and creaking
wagon after him!



CHAPTER XVIII.

A "HOLD-UP."


For the time being, Matt, on the seat of the heavily-laden wagon, felt
certain that the entire turn-out must come to grief, and that very
soon. Billy, thoroughly frightened by the thunder and lightning, was
straining every nerve to make his way through the woods, despite
brush, stones, and fallen trees.

Between the flashes of light the way beneath the trees was almost
totally dark. The rain swept this way and that, and Matt, standing up
on the foot-rest, was soaked to the skin.

"Whoa, Billy, old boy! Whoa!" he called again. "You are all right!"

But the scared horse paid no attention to his call. His nerves seemed
to be strained to their utmost, and on he plunged, dragging the wagon
along with bumps and jolts, which more than once threatened to land
the young auctioneer out on his head.

Realizing that something must be done quickly if he would save the
wagon from becoming a total wreck, Matt resolved upon a bold move. He
tied the reins to the dashboard, and then, with a swift jump, cast
himself upon Billy's back.

For the instant the horse, worse frightened than before, tore along
over the uneven surface at a greater rate of speed than ever. The
wagon struck a rock, and seemed about to lurch over upon its side. But
it righted, and seeing this, Matt began to talk to the horse, patting
him in the meanwhile upon the neck in an affectionate way.

This show of kindness soon had more effect upon Billy than anything
which had previously been done. The animal slackened his speed
gradually, and then, as there came a brief lull in the storm, stopped
short, almost winded, but still inclined to go on at the first sign of
further danger.

As soon as Billy had come to a halt Matt sprang to the ground. A tree
the boy had feared they would collide with was close at hand, and to
this he tied the horse, making sure that the halter should be well
secured; and for the time being, the danger of being wrecked through a
runaway was over.

But the trouble was by no means past. The storm still kept on, the
lightning being as vivid as ever, and the thunder causing Billy to tug
violently at the strap which held him. It was with a shiver that Matt
wondered what the consequence would be should that particular tree be
struck by lightning.

To prevent Billy doing damage to the wagon by twisting in the shafts
or by kicking, Matt unharnessed him and pushed the wagon back a few
feet into a somewhat open space. Here the rain came down heavier, but
he felt safer than in close proximity to the tree.

Feeling that nothing was to be done until the storm should abate, Matt
climbed into the wagon again and protected himself as well as he could
with the rubber blanket and the lap-robe. The back shade of the wagon
was down, and he was glad to see that so far the stock inside had
sustained no damage.

A half-hour dragged along slowly. Several times the storm appeared
upon the point of clearing away, but each time the clouds settled down
heavier than before, until under the trees it was as black as
midnight.

Matt wondered how far he was from the road, and if there were a
farmhouse anywhere at hand.

"If I could reach a house of some sort it wouldn't be so bad," he
murmured to himself. "But being out here alone isn't any fun, that's
certain."

At last the clouds seemed to scatter for good. A fresh breeze stirred
the trees and bushes, and ere long the rain ceased, although the
drops still came down from the heavily-laden branches overhead.

As soon as he felt certain that the sky was brightening to remain so,
Matt untied Billy, and harnessed him to the wagon once more.

"Now, Billy, we'll get back to the road just as fast as we can," he
said to the horse. "And I trust that you will never run away again in
that fashion, old boy."

On all sides arose bushes and rocks, and, although the road might be
close at hand, Matt thought it best to return the way they had come.
He wished to take no more chances, feeling that it would be the
easiest thing in the world to get lost, or to run the turn-out into
some hollow or hole from which it would be next to impossible to
extricate it.

But to return by the route they had come was itself no easy task. In
his terror, Billy had dragged the heavy vehicle over several very
uneven places, full of stumps and rocks, and now the animal, still
somewhat exhausted, had all he could do to move back over the trail
which had been left.

Matt led the horse, and on more than one occasion had to place his
shoulder to the rear end of the wagon to help over a particularly bad
spot. Thus they moved on, taking half an hour to cover a distance
which had previously been traveled in less than half that time.

"Thank goodness, we are out of that at last!" exclaimed Matt, as the
road finally appeared in sight. "Now to see if any damage has been
done."

The young auctioneer made a minute examination of every bolt and
spring, as well as of the running gear and harness. He was overjoyed
to find everything still in good order, despite the rough usage to
which it had been put. The wagon body was scratched in a dozen places,
but this could be easily remedied.

The rubber blankets were put away, and the lap-robe left fluttering in
the rear to dry, and then Matt once more resumed his lonely journey in
the direction of High Bridge.

The heavy rain had left the road deep with mud, and through this Billy
plodded slowly along, Matt not having the heart to urge him to a
greater speed, knowing well that the faithful animal was doing as well
as could be reasonably expected of him.

"As soon as we reach High Bridge I must find a good stable for Billy,
and change my clothes," thought Matt. "And something hot to drink
won't go bad, either. Ugh! I am chilled clear to the bone!"

And he gave a shiver that was as genuine as it was uncomfortable.

The road now led downward and around a bend, where was situated
another heavy bit of timber. As Matt approached the wood he saw some
distance back from the road a shanty built of rough logs and boards,
and thatched with weather-beaten shingles and bits of old tin and
oil-cloth. There was a rude chimney upon the outside of the rear of
this shanty, and from this a thin cloud of smoke was issuing.

"Humph! here is somebody's home, but a very poor one," thought Matt.
"I shouldn't wonder but those inside got a pretty good soaking, by the
looks of things."

At first the young auctioneer determined to stop, but upon second
thought, he concluded to go on, satisfied that no accommodations
worthy of the name could be had there.

"If I can't strike something better, I'll keep right on to High
Bridge," was his thought, and he was just about to urge Billy on once
more, when the door of the shanty opened and a man came out.

The man was apparently fifty years of age, and rough in looks. His
beard was long, as was also his hair, and both seemed to be much in
need of shears and brush. His clothing and his face were dirty, and
altogether he presented a decidedly ill-favored appearance.

"Hullo, there, stranger!" he called out. "Where bound?"

"Bound for High Bridge," replied Matt as he drew rein. "How many miles
is it?"

"Not many," was the rather indefinite reply. "Suppose you got cotched
in that storm, eh?"

"Yes, I got the full benefit of it."

"It was a heavy one, no mistake about that. What sort of a turn-out
have you got there?"

"An auction goods wagon."

"Carrying stuff around the country to sell at auction?"

"Yes."

"I see. Say, maybe you've got something you would like to sell me,"
and the man, after speaking to some one in the shanty, stepped up
closer to the turn-out.

"Perhaps I have, but it's pretty well packed up," returned Matt, who
was not at all taken by the man's manner. "We'll be open at High
Bridge this evening, or to-morrow, if nothing happens."

"We? Got somebody else with you?"

"Not on the wagon, but I have a partner."

"I see. What line of goods do you carry?"

Matt named over a number of articles. The man's eyes brightened as he
listened.

"Let me have a pair of suspenders," he said. "I need them worst way.
And if you've got a good pocket-knife I'll patronize you so much more.
Drive up in the back of the house and tie fast anywhere."

"Excuse me, but I would prefer getting to High Bridge. I am wet to the
skin, and I want to change my clothes."

"That's all right, young fellow. We've got a fire inside, and you can
dry yourself there just as well as not."

"But my horse----"

"I'll take care of the horse. I've got a shed a bit back of those
bushes. Come on in; what are you afraid of?"

Thus urged, Matt sprang from the wagon seat to the ground. As he did
so he noted a look of satisfaction gleam upon the man's dirty face,
and he saw the fellow wave his hand toward the shanty's one window. He
turned swiftly in the direction, and was in time to see two equally
repulsive heads dodge aside out of sight.

Only for a second did the young auctioneer hesitate. Then something
warned him to beware of danger, and he turned again to the wagon and
placed one foot upon the shaft step.

"Hi! what are you going to do?" cried the man, in surprise.

"I guess I won't stop," returned the boy. "That storm does not seem to
be quite over, and I do not wish to catch a second dose."

"But you will stop, sonny!" exclaimed the man, with a sudden change of
manner. "Hi, Jake! Baldy! Come out here and help me manage this young
fellow!" he went on, in a louder tone.

The other men at once rushed from the shanty, and in a trice Matt was
surrounded.



CHAPTER XIX.

OUT OF A BAD SCRAPE.


It did not take the young auctioneer long to understand the true
nature of the situation in which he now found himself. The three men
who had surrounded him were nothing more or less than tramps who had
undoubtedly sought shelter in the shanty from the storm. That they
were thoroughly unscrupulous men went without saying, and it must be
confessed that Matt's heart sank within him as he realized the danger
in which he was placed.

"Let go of me!" he said sternly to the first man, who had presumed to
catch him by the arm. "Let go, I say!"

"Don't you do it, Crabs!" put in the tramp called Jake. "Hold tight to
him while I tie up the hoss."

"What do you mean to do?" demanded Matt, as he struggled to free
himself, but in vain.

"You'll learn fast enough, sonny," returned Crabs, with a wicked grin.
"Just keep quiet now, will you?"

"I certainly shall not!" retorted the young auctioneer hotly. "Do you
suppose I am going to submit tamely to being robbed?"

"Who said anything about robbin' you?" demanded the third tramp, he
called Baldy, although his head was covered with a shock of hair twice
as thick as either of his companions. "You had better act civil-like,
sonny, if you want to get off without a licking."

"You let me go!" went on Matt, paying no attention to the last remark.
"Let go, I say--or take the consequences!"

"The consequences?" sneered him called Crabs.

"Yes--there!"

And without further warning, Matt drew back with his clinched fist and
gave the tramp a stinging blow between the eyes, which caused the much
surprised individual to let go his hold and stagger back to the
shanty's side.

"Ho--what--what do you mean by hitting me?" he howled.

"I told you to let go," retorted Matt; and free from his tormentor, he
essayed to leap to the wagon seat and gain possession of the heavy
whip, with which he might keep the tramps at bay.

But hardly had he placed his foot on the rest than Baldy, who was now
close at hand, caught him by the ankle and gave a sudden jerk, which
brought Matt down on his chest and face, scratching his left cheek in
two places, and giving him a severe shaking up.

"Hold the horse, Jake!" cried Baldy. "Hold the horse, and I'll hold
the boy."

"Let me get at him!" cried Crabs, in a rage. "Just let me get at him,
and I'll teach him to strike me between the eyes!"

As he spoke he rushed past his companion, and was on the point of
kicking Matt in the side when Baldy stopped him with a side dig of his
ragged elbow.

"Don't strike him if it ain't necessary," he said. "I'll hold him
all right enough. Come, be still now," he went on to the young
auctioneer.

Matt was on his face on the ground and Baldy was sitting on top of
him, but, nevertheless, the boy did not intend to give up the
struggle.

He squirmed and twisted this way and that until finally free, and
then, before the tramp could catch him again, he sprang to his feet
and leaped upon the foot-rest of the wagon.

"Stand back there, all of you!" he cried determinedly, and the next
instant had the whip and was flourishing it over the heads of those
below him.

"See that! he's got away from you!" cried Crabs to Baldy, in tones of
deep disgust. "Now don't you wish you had let me tend to him?"

"Stick to the horse, Jake!" cried Baldy, ignoring the last remark.
"I'll soon have the young fellow on the ground again."

"Let go of that horse!" commanded Matt. "Let go, or I'll lash you
right and left!"

The tramp called Jake looked up into the young auctioneer's face at
these words. Evidently he did not like the looks of the set lines
about Matt's mouth, for without delay he obeyed the order, and stepped
back. Lie had hardly done so before Matt struck Billy a light blow,
and off went the horse at quite a respectable gait, leaving the three
would-be plunderers standing staring after the turn-out in wonder and
disgust!

"Phew! but that was a narrow escape!" gasped Matt, to himself, as he
caught up the lines and gave Billy another tap. "I suppose I ought to
be thankful that I was not robbed of everything in my keeping. Those
fellows looked wicked enough to do almost anything."

After he had gone on some little distance he leaned out of the wagon
to see if he was being pursued. But the tramps had deemed it unwise to
follow him, and once more the young auctioneer had the road to
himself.

It was not long before the houses of High Bridge appeared in sight. At
the first place the young auctioneer asked for directions to the
hotel, and here he had the wagon and horse safely stabled, and then
went to the room which had been assigned to him to change every
article of clothing he wore.

He had ordered a hot meal to be served, and when he came down he found
the table spread for him.

"Got caught in the shower, eh?" questioned the hotel-keeper, as Matt
sat down.

"Yes, indeed," returned the boy, and he related the particulars of his
adventures while eating, not forgetting to mention the three tramps.

"Those three rascals have been bothering folks around here for quite a
bit," remarked the hotel-keeper after he had finished. "The constable
is after 'em now, but I don't think he'll catch 'em, for they slide
around from place to place. You can bet on it that they are miles away
from that shanty by this time."

"Well, I trust that I never fall in with them again," returned Matt
with a slight shudder.

"Going to hold an auction?" went on the hotel-keeper curiously.

"That's what I expect to do. I would like to find some good spot.
Where would be the best place for me to locate, do you think?"

The hotel-keeper thought for a moment.

"Well, most of the folks come around here and over across the way to
the general stores. But I reckon the store-keepers won't like you
around much."

"They never do--but I can't help that. I've got to make a living as
well as they."

"That's true. Tell you what you might do. There's the old paint-shop
next door. You can use that for an auction place if you are a mind to
be liberal for the use of it," said the hotel-keeper.

As soon as he had finished Matt went out and inspected the old
paint-shop. He found it would do very well for his purpose, and on
returning offered the hotel-keeper a good pocket-knife for its use for
the following day. This offer was at once accepted, and Matt set to
work without delay to get the place into shape.

By nightfall he was ready for business. In the meantime, he had sent a
couple of small boys around to all the houses in the neighborhood to
notify the folks of the sale, and as a consequence, by eight o'clock
he had the shop quite comfortably filled.

Without waiting to see if Andy might return on the late evening
train, Matt started up business, and inside of half an hour had
matters in full swing. He opened up with a lot of goods which the
folks appeared to need, and they sold readily, much to the disgust of
one of the proprietors of the regular stores, who came over to see
what was going on.

"Humph! it's only a boy!" he muttered, but loud enough for all to
hear. "What does he know about the goods he is selling? Like as not
they are second-handed, and all shop-worn."

"These goods are strictly new, and of the latest designs," called out
Matt, looking squarely at the man. "They are direct from New York, and
I venture to say cannot be duplicated in High Bridge at the price at
which I am knocking them down for. Now, ladies and gentlemen, what am
I offered for this elegant family album, bound in plush, with
sliver-plated clasps?"

"One dollar!" called a rustic, standing close at hand.

"A dollar and a quarter!" shouted a farmer near the door.

"See here, Podders, you ought to buy your things of me," whispered the
keeper of the general store to the latter bidder. "I trust you till
the money for crops comes in."

"So you do--and I pay you for the accommodation, too," retorted the
farmer.

"I can sell you an album for half the money he'll charge you."

"I don't know about that," returned the farmer, with a shake of his
head.

"Yes, I can. Come on over to the store and see."

"I want to watch this sale first."

By this time another person had offered a dollar and a half for the
album, and Matt was hard at work trying to get a raise on this figure.
But he overheard the store-keeper's words, and his face flushed with
indignation. He stopped short, and pointed directly at the man.

"Will you please come forward a moment?" he asked, in a loud and clear
tone.

"What--what's that?" stammered the store-keeper, taken by surprise.

"I asked you if you would please come forward."

"What for?"

"I wish to ask you what right you have to come in here and endeavor to
take away my possible customers?"

"Why, you--I ain't taken any one away."

"But you were just trying to induce that man to leave--told him you
could sell him an album for half the money I would charge."

"What if I did--I can, too."

"I doubt it. If you could, folks would not flock to such an
auction-sale as this. They come here because they can get things
cheap--because they are not overcharged, as they are in some
places--because they are told the truth about goods--because they like
to see a boy get along in spite of what some mean man may do to take
away his business--because they----"

But Matt could go no further. His unexpected speech brought forth a
sudden applause that for the moment drowned out every other sound.



CHAPTER XX.

ACCUSED OF STEALING.


It was plain to see that the store-keeper who had thus thrust himself
into the young auctioneer's business was not in high favor with the
residents of the country town. To tell the truth, the man was not
liked by any one, and was only patronized by force of circumstances or
through long-standing habit. He was a thoroughly mean man, and the
fact that his trade had been falling off steadily for several years
had not tended to sweeten his temper.

"Thet's one on Ike Marvelling, sure!" laughed a young man near the
auction stand.

"Yes, an' Ike deserves it," returned a woman beside him. "He has no
right to come in here and abuse the boy."

"That's so, he ain't," added another woman.

"Ike was always high-priced in everything," remarked a jolly-faced
farmer. "If he had Pickle Mountain to sell he would want double price
for it."

This bit of humor caused a laugh at the store-keeper's expense, and
put him in even worse humor than had Matt's caustic remarks.

"See here, I didn't come in here to be abused!" he cried, addressing
the young auctioneer in a bullying tone.

"You were not asked in here at all, to my knowledge," returned Matt.
"And you should have remained away unless you intended to do the right
thing."

"See here, boy, what do you mean?"

"What would you think of me if I came over to your store and told your
customers that I could sell them goods cheaper than you could? I
rather guess you would be for running me out--and mighty lively,
too!"

"That he would!" laughed several. "He wouldn't give you time to open
your mouth."

"I came in here because I know all these auction sales--they ain't
really auctions at all--are frauds!" blustered Isaac Marvelling,
finding it hard to say anything in the face of so much opposition.
"These chaps oughten to be allowed to sell a thing--they swindle folks
so, and if I had my way, the constable would----"

"Stop right there!" interrupted Matt, his eyes flashing. "When you
insinuate that I am a swindler, you go too far. You must take back
those words!"

"Must I?" sneered the store-keeper. "Well, I reckon not."

"Very well, then." Matt turned to several men standing by the door.
"Will one of you gentlemen kindly call in the constable or some other
officer?"

"What--what do you mean?" asked Isaac Marvelling in a lower tone, and
much disturbed.

"I mean to have you put out as a disorderly character, that's what I
mean," returned Matt firmly. "I have paid my license, and so long as I
do business on the square I do not intend to allow any one to bulldoze
me or call me a swindler."

"That's right! That's right!" cried several men in the crowd, and the
woman who had first spoken nodded approvingly.

"You're a mighty big boy!" sneered the store-keeper, but all noticed
that he retreated several steps toward the open doorway.

"I am big enough to defend myself," replied the young auctioneer
quickly. "I want you to leave. I am no more of a swindler than you
are--perhaps not as much. I am conducting this business on an honest
basis, and I will not stand by and let you or any one else blacken my
character."

"We'll see--we'll see," muttered Isaac Marvelling, and greatly
enraged, but unable to say a word in his own defense, and fearful that
an officer might appear, he withdrew.

This little incident served to make Matt many friends. People always
like to see persons stick up for their rights, and in this particular
case they were pleased to see the mean store-keeper "talked-down," as
he well deserved to be.

The album was again put up, and after considerable talking was knocked
down to Podders, the very individual Isaac Marvelling had endeavored
to persuade away from the sale. Matt purposely let Podders have the
album quite cheaply, and as soon as it was his Podders declared he
would call at Marvelling's store and see if it could be duplicated at
the price he had paid.

The young auctioneer knew this could not be done, and he offered to
buy the album back at double the price should Podders succeed.

This pleased the farmer, and also many others, and, as a consequence,
Matt had a brisk run of luck until closing-up time. The boy felt
highly elated, especially when, on counting up the cash, he found he
had taken in sixteen dollars, one third of which was profit.

On the following morning another heavy rain came up, and Matt found it
of no advantage to open up for business. Shortly after dinner Andy
came back from New York, and to him Matt related all that had
occurred.

"That's right, Matt, always stick up when you are in the right, and
you'll come out on top," said the senior partner of the firm.

Andy had struck several decided bargains in goods in the metropolis,
and had invested every dollar of available cash. He had had all of the
goods shipped to Phillipsburg, the next stopping place, and said they
would most likely find them at the freight depot upon their arrival
there.

During the afternoon it cleared up, and people began to drift into the
shop. Andy opened up the sale, and by evening both of the partners
were quite busy. When he went to supper Matt saw Isaac Marvelling, but
the store-keeper only favored him with a deep scowl.

"I suppose he would like to chew my head off if he dared," laughed the
young auctioneer, as he related the occurrence to Andy.

"No doubt of it, Matt. He feels sore, especially as we are selling
just such goods as he has displayed in his window, and at about half
the price."

"Well, we won't worry him after to-night," smiled Matt, for the start
for Phillipsburg was to be made on the following morning.

After closing up the sale that night, the wagon was once more packed,
so that they might be on the way at an early hour. The stock on hand
was growing lighter, and they were glad to know that more goods would
await them upon their arrival.

"We are doing famously," remarked Andy. "If we keep on we shall soon
be rich."

"I want to pay back Miss Bartlett what she loaned me as soon as I
can."

"I reckon she is in no hurry. You had better keep some cash on hand in
case of an emergency."

The work of selling goods and packing the wagon had tired Matt
considerably, but his mind was too much aroused to go to sleep at
once, and so he started out for a short walk before retiring.

He knew very little of the roads around the village, but he was
confident that he would not get lost, especially as it was a bright
starlight night.

He passed the shop where the sales had been conducted, and then
branched off on a road that but a short distance away crossed a tiny
brook.

At the brook he paused, and then, struck with a sudden fancy, he left
the bridge to go down and bathe his hands and face in the cool,
running water.

He had hardly leaped from the bridge to the rocks below when a sudden
noise beside him caused him to start back. Almost at the same time a
dark form passed under the bridge and was lost to view in the bushes
beyond. It looked somewhat like the form of a man, but Matt was not
sure.

"That was queer," thought the young auctioneer, as he paused, in
perplexity. "Was that a man, or only some animal?"

Disturbed at the occurrence, Matt leaped up upon the bridge again,
without having touched the water. He had hardly come up into the
starlight when two men came rushing toward him from the road.

"Who's that?" cried one of the men.

"That must be the man!" cried the other, and Matt recognized Isaac
Marvelling's voice. "Catch hold of him, Jackson."

In another moment the two men stood beside Matt. As he recognized the
young auctioneer, Isaac Marvelling set up a cry of surprise and
triumph.

"I told you so!" he declared. "I said them auction fellows weren't no
better than thieves! This is the chap that broke in my store, Jackson,
I feel sure of it! I want him arrested, and you had better handcuff
him so that he can't get away from you! No wonder they can sell cheap,
when they steal their goods!"



CHAPTER XXI.

THE TELL-TALE CAP.


For the moment Matt could do little more than stare at the two men
that confronted him. In a dim way he realized that Isaac Marvelling's
store had been entered and robbed, and that the mean-minded
store-keeper fully believed that he was the guilty party.

"Are you a-holding him, Jackson?" went on Isaac Marvelling anxiously.
"Look out, or he may slip away from you."

"I've got him, right enough," returned Jackson, one of the local
constables. "He'll have hard work to get away."

"What does this mean?" demanded the young auctioneer, aroused at last
to the necessity of doing something in his own behalf. "Let go of
me!"

"Oh, no, not just yet!" returned Jackson. "You're wanted, and you know
it."

"That's right, Jackson, don't let him slip you!" put in Marvelling
eagerly. "He's a good talker, but don't let that count with you."

"Will you tell me what I am wanted for?" asked Matt.

"For entering his store and stealing a lot of cutlery and jewelry,"
returned the constable.

"Forty-five dollars' worth," added Marvelling. "And all new stock,
too! Oh, you thought you would get away with it mighty smart-like,
didn't you?" he sneered.

"I haven't been near your store, and I know nothing about the theft,"
was Matt's steady reply.

"But we saw you run away from the store and come down here, didn't we,
Jackson?"

"We certainly did," returned the constable, with a grave shake of his
head.

"You saw me?" gasped Matt, starting back.

"Exactly," said Isaac Marvelling. "I heard you run out of the yard
behind the store right after I had called in Jackson to tell him about
the robbery. We both saw you jump the fence and skip off in this
direction."

"You might as well own up to what you have done," added the constable.
"It won't do you any good to deny it."

For the moment Matt did not reply to this. He was thinking of what had
occurred at the bridge just before the two men had reached it. Could
it be possible that the dark object which had left the place when he
had arrived was the thief, rooted out of what he had considered a safe
hiding-place?

"How near were you to me when you saw me first?" he asked of
Marvelling.

"We were near enough."

"Did you see my face?"

"Never mind if we did or not."

"No, I must say I didn't see your face," said the constable, who,
although a friend of the store-keeper, was yet disposed to be fair and
square.

"You probably saw a man, and he ran in this direction," went on Matt.

"We saw you," said Marvelling doggedly. "March him back to the store,
Jackson, and we'll make him confess where he has placed the stolen
stuff. He doesn't seem to have it with him."

"If you wish to get back your goods you had better listen to what I
have to say," returned Matt, trying to keep down his rising temper. "I
did not enter your store, but perhaps I can put you on the track of
the party who did."

"Oh, pshaw! that's all talk!" snarled Isaac Marvelling. "March him
back, Jackson."

"It won't do any harm to listen to his story," said the constable
meekly. "I reckon you want to get the goods back more than anything."

"Of course! of course!" responded the store-keeper eagerly. "I can't
afford to lose forty-five dollars' worth of stuff at once."

"You say you didn't do the job, and that you think you can put us on
the right track?"

"I think I can do something for you," returned Matt.

And in a few brief words he told how he happened to be at the bridge
and what he had seen. The constable listened with deep interest, but
Isaac Marvelling pooh-poohed the whole story.

"He's a good one at telling 'em," said the store-keeper. "I don't
place no credit in what he says."

"Well, it won't do any harm to investigate," replied Jackson. "You
hold him, while I light my lantern and take a look under the bridge."

"He may try to get away from me," said Marvelling, as he surveyed
Matt's tall and well-built form with some trepidation. "He would most
likely do anything to keep out of jail."

"I have more at stake than you have," cried the young auctioneer.

"Indeed?"

"Yes, sir. I consider my reputation worth considerably more than a
paltry forty-five dollars."

"Do you? Well, to me the reputation of a traveling and swindling
auctioneer isn't worth much!" grumbled Isaac Marvelling.

"You may regret those words," was Matt's brief reply; and for the time
being he said no more.

In the meanwhile Jackson had struck a match and lit the somewhat smoky
lantern he carried.

Seeing to it that Matt was safe in Marvelling's custody, the constable
sprang down from the bridge to the rocks below. A second later he
disappeared under the bridge.

The two above heard him rummaging around in the loose stones and among
the brush for all of five minutes. Both listened for some call from
him, the store-keeper all the while keeping a tight hold on Matt's
arm.

"Well, have you found anything?" cried the store-keeper at last,
unable longer to stand the suspense.

"I have," returned Jackson, and a second later he appeared again,
holding in his hand a carving-knife and two spoons.

"Found these under the bridge," he explained, as he clambered up upon
the structure again. "They are your goods, I take it."

"Of course they are my goods!" cried Isaac Marvelling, as he glanced
at the articles. "Is that all?" he went on disappointedly.

"That's all I could find. There may be more there or in the water."

"This young rascal threw them there!" cried the store-keeper, shaking
Matt's arm savagely. "You imp! tell me where the other things are at
once, or I'll skin you alive!"

"Look here, Mr. Marvelling; I want you to let go of me and be
reasonable," returned Matt, as calmly as he could. "I am not a thief.
If I was, would I tell the story I did, or send down your companion to
find those things? My story about that object under the bridge is
true, and, to my way of thinking, it was the thief you saw jump the
fence and run in this direction. When I sprang down to bathe my face
and hands he got scared and ran out on the other side of the bridge,
and in his hurry he must have dropped the things which have been
found."

"Stuff and nonsense!"

"His story may be true," put in Jackson mildly.

"My advice is to follow up the brook and see if you cannot track the
thief," went on the young auctioneer. "And do not lose any time in
doing it."

"And what will become of you?" sneered the store-keeper.

"I will go with you, if you wish."

"That's a good idea," said the constable. "Come, let us start without
delay. If we can't find anybody we can take the boy to the lock-up,
anyway."

Isaac Marvelling grumbled, but at last consented, and soon all three
were down under the bridge. Here it was pitch-dark, and the feeble
rays of the lantern only lit up a circle that was less than three
yards in diameter.

In hopes of clearing himself, more than for the purpose of aiding
Isaac Marvelling in the recovery of the goods, Matt set to work with a
will.

"Here is another spoon," he said presently, and he handed over a
silver-plated affair, which at the most was not worth fifteen cents,
wholesale.

"Here are a couple of knives," added Jackson. "And here is a bit of
paper some of the stuff must have been wrapped in."

"Look here!" suddenly cried Matt, as he pointed down into the water.
"Here's a man's cap, and it looks as if it had just fallen in, for one
side of the peak is not yet wet."

"Let me see that cap," returned the constable quickly.

He snatched it from Matt's hand and turned with it to the lantern. His
examination lasted but a few seconds.

"Say, Marvelling, have you seen anything of old Joe Yedley lately?" he
asked, turning to the store-keeper.

"Yedley? Why, yes; he was in the store begging, only yesterday," was
the reply. "But what has he----"

"Did you give him anything?"

"Give him anything?" cried Marvelling wrathfully. "Not a cent! I told
him to clear out; that I didn't want him to ever come in again. I have
no use for beggars."

"Did he go near the case with the cutlery and jewelry in it?"

"Humph! I suppose he did. But what has he to do with this?"

"This is Joe Yedley's cap; I would know it out of a thousand. He is an
old offender, and it is more than likely that he is the thief!"



CHAPTER XXII.

THE SHANTY IN THE WOODS.


The reader may rest assured that Matt listened with deep interest to
the words of the constable. He knew nothing of the man that had been
mentioned as the probable thief, but he was willing to believe
Jackson's supposition true.

"That Joe Yedley's cap?" returned Isaac Marvelling slowly.

"Certainly. You ought to know it well enough. He has worn nothing else
for years."

"Humph! how did it get here?"

"The man must have dropped it in his haste to get away when I came
here," said Matt. "He left in a big hurry."

"That's most likely it," said the constable. "To tell the truth, it
looks just like a piece of Yedley's work," he added slowly. "He did it
in order to get square, as much as anything, I reckon. He always
resented being called a beggar."

"Humph!" muttered Isaac Marvelling, not particularly pleased over the
turn affairs seemed to be taking. "He may be guilty and he may not be.
I rather think you had better hold this young fellow for awhile yet."

"Just as you say."

"You may hold me if you wish," put in the young auctioneer. "But if
you want to get all of your stuff back you had better follow up this
Yedley."

"I'll do that," returned the constable. "I have an idea I can find out
where he has gone to. He has several old hang-outs here, and most
likely he'll be at one or another of them."

"Are any of the places close at hand?"

"He used to put up at a shanty back here in the woods," was the slow
reply. "It is possible he has struck for that place--or else for Bill
Voegler's barn."

"Supposing we three make for the shanty without delay?"

The matter was talked over, and finally Isaac Marvelling, urged on
solely by the desire to recover his goods and not to clear Matt,
consented to accompany the others to the place the constable had
named.

It was a dark and lonely road the trio had to travel. But Jackson knew
the way well, and to avoid suspicion, put out the light. He cautioned
them not to make any noise, and so, as silently as Indians, they filed
along, Jackson first and Marvelling last, with the young auctioneer
between them.

Ten minutes' walking brought them to the edge of a bit of woodland,
surrounded on three sides by corn-fields. Here Jackson called a halt.

"The shanty is not two hundred feet from here. Keep quiet while I go
on and investigate," he whispered.

The constable glided out of sight, and five minutes of silent suspense
followed.

"It ain't likely he'll find anything," grumbled Isaac Marvelling.
"This ain't anything but a wild goose chase."

"Wait," returned Matt. "He must go slow, or he may----"

The young auctioneer broke off short, for at that instant several loud
exclamations reached their ears.

"Surrender, Yedley!" they heard Jackson cry. "Surrender, in the name
of the law!"

"Who told ye to come here?" yelled the voice of an old man. "Git out
an' leave me alone."

"I arrest you, Yedley, for stealing-- Hullo! he's gone! Stop him! stop
him!"

There was the banging of a shanty door, and then a crashing in the
bushes. Footsteps came close to where Matt and Marvelling stood.

"He's coming this way!" cried the young auctioneer. "Let us stop
him!"

"You stop him!" stammered the store-keeper. "He is--is a very ugly man
to deal with."

And as the old fellow in question appeared in sight, the store-keeper
dropped down behind the rail fence, leaving Matt to face Joe Yedley
alone.

This the young auctioneer did without hesitation.

"Stop where you are!" he cried out, and as Yedley attempted to leap
the fence, he caught the fellow by the leg and dragged him to the
ground.

"Let go of me!" howled the man savagely. "Let go, boy, or it will be
the worse for you!"

"Don't you attempt to rise, or I'll knock you down," was Matt's
undaunted reply. "Just you remain where you are until Mr. Jackson gets
back."

But Yedley would not remain still, and as a consequence, a fierce
struggle ensued. Matt called to Isaac Marvelling to come to his
assistance, but the store-keeper was too afraid to do so, and only
screamed for Jackson to come and secure the thief.

Yedley, although well along in years, was very strong and active, and
Matt gradually found himself being overpowered. But he held on until
Jackson arrived, and then the man was quickly subdued by the sight of
the constable's pistol.

"Now, Yedley, you had better tell us what you have done with the
stolen goods," said Jackson, after he and the others had somewhat
regained their breath.

"Yes! yes! hand over my goods!" put in Isaac Marvelling eagerly.

"Ain't got no goods--didn't steal nuthin'!" growled the old man.

"We know better," said Jackson. "We'll search the shanty."

This was done, and in one corner, under some loose flooring, was found
a large bundle done up in several newspapers. When this was opened
there came to light many knives, forks and spoons, as well as a
quantity of cheap jewelry, such as watch chains, rings and trinkets.
The entire collection was not worth over fifteen dollars, although
Isaac Marvelling stuck to it that the articles had cost him forty-five
dollars cash.

After the store-keeper had made certain that all of his goods, with
the exception of several cheap spoons, which must have slipped out of
the bundle on the way, were safe, all hands made their way back to the
village. Yedley begged to be allowed to go, but the constable was
firm, and the man was eventually locked up, and later on sent to jail
for one year.

Isaac Marvelling was too mean a man to recognize the service Matt had
done him, or to apologize for the false charges he had made against
the young auctioneer. As soon as he could he got out of Matt's way,
and that was about the last the boy saw of him.

But Jackson, the constable, did not hesitate to tell the whole story,
and, as a consequence, the people of the village thought less of the
mean store-keeper than ever. His trade dropped down daily, until he
was at last forced to give up his store and go back to the farm from
which he had originally come.

On the following morning Matt and his partner set off bright and early
for Phillipsburg. Andy had heard the particulars of Matt's adventures,
and he sincerely trusted that neither would have anything further to
do with thieves, little dreaming of what fate had in store for them in
the near future.

They had done very well in High Bridge, and so took their time to
reach the pretty manufacturing town which lies on the east bank of the
Delaware. The road was a good one, and on the way they stopped at a
farmhouse, where Andy treated the firm, as he termed it, to apple pie
and fresh milk. He was going to pay for these articles in cash, but
the farmer's wife wished a hat-pin, and gladly took one out of their
stock instead.

When they arrived in Phillipsburg they found that their new goods from
New York had not yet arrived, but were told that the cases would
probably come in on the afternoon freight. After this they started to
find a vacant store. Strange to say, there was none to be had which
would suit their purpose. There were several large places vacant, but
all of them were on side streets, and these they declined to hire.

"We'll have to sell direct from the wagon," said Andy. "Perhaps we'll
do just as well."

They found a good corner, and after paying a license fee and getting a
square meal, opened up for business. Hardly anything was done during
the afternoon, but toward evening trade picked up, and when they
finally dismissed the crowd they found they had taken in seventeen
dollars.

"And that's pretty good, considering that we are out of many of our
best sellers," was Andy's comment. "We must go around to the freight
house the first thing in the morning and stock up again."

"I see by the posters that there is to be a big firemen's parade in
Easton day after to-morrow," said Matt. "Would it not be a good idea
to locate there just before it comes off?"

"Excellent. Day after to-morrow, you say?"

"Yes; the posters are everywhere."

"Then instead of remaining here we had better cross the river as soon
as we have our cases of goods. If we can only get a store in a good
location we may do better than we did on circus day in those other
places."

"That's true, Andy, for I saw by the bills that the railroads are
going to run special excursions on account of the big parade, so there
will be many strangers with money in the city."

As soon as the freight depot was open the next morning the two drove
to the place, and Andy entered the office and called for the cases,
three in number.

"What's the name?" asked the agent in charge.

Andy told him, and an examination of all the freight which had come in
was made, and then the two made the dismaying discovery that no goods
for them had arrived.



CHAPTER XXIII.

SOMETHING IS MISSING.


"The goods haven't come in!" cried Matt. "What's to be done now? We
can't open up without them, and we can't afford to miss the chance of
taking a good round sum on parade day."

"I'll telegraph to New York and find out what the trouble is,"
returned Andy, and he started for the telegraph office without delay.

The message was sent to the metropolis within quarter of an hour,
reaching its destination before any of the down-town wholesale houses
were open for business. At eleven o'clock a reply came back that the
cases had been duly sent, and that the delay would be traced up, if
possible, at the freight depot there.

"This leaves us in a pickle for to-day," said Andy, as he handed the
message over to Matt.

"Well, it won't be so bad if only we get our goods by to-morrow
morning, Andy. Let us go over to Easton, anyway, and look for a
store, and if we can find one, take the risk of hiring it."

So they crossed the river and began a search, leaving the horse and
wagon tied up at the freight depot in Phillipsburg in the meantime.

They found that the firemen's parade was really to be very large, and
already the store-keepers were decorating in its honor. On the streets
numerous fakirs were about, offering badges, medals, song-sheets,
souvenirs, and other wares for sale.

"I'll take this street, and you take that," said Andy, as they came to
a corner. "Go around the block, and then take the next block. In that
way we may find a store quicker. There is no use for both of us to go
over the same ground."

So, after appointing a meeting-place, the two separated, and Matt
hurried along the street Andy had designated to him.

"Here you are, gents, the most wonderful corn and bunion salve in the
market!" he presently heard a voice crying out. "Made first expressly
for the Emperor of Germany, and now sold in America for the first
time. Warranted to cure the worst corn ever known, and sold for the
small sum of ten cents! They go like hot-cakes, the boxes do, for they
all know how good the salve is! Thank you, sir; who'll have the
next?"

Matt stopped short, as something in the voice of the street merchant
attracted his attention. He looked at the man and saw that it was Paul
Barberry, the fellow who had wished to be taken in as a partner in
Newark.

"Give me a box of that ere salve," Matt heard an old man say, and saw
the traveling corn doctor hand over a package of his preparation.

The purchaser of the package handed over a quarter of a dollar in
silver. Barberry stuck the money in his pocket, and without attempting
to give back any change, thrust two more packages of his corn salve
into the old man's hands.

"What--what's this?" stammered the old fellow. "Where is my change?"

"That's all right, three for a quarter, sir," returned Paul Barberry
briskly. "Who'll have the next? Don't all crowd up at once!"

"But I don't want three," said the old man timidly. "I want my
change."

"You'll find you need three, find 'em very valuable, sir! That's
right, come right up and buy, buy, buy! It's the greatest on the face
of the globe!" bawled Barberry, turning away and addressing another
crowd on the sidewalk.

"Well, I'll be jiggered!" muttered the old man, and much put out, but
too timid to stand up for his rights and demand the return of his
money, he placed the packages in his coat-tail pocket, and walked
off.

"Well, that's what I call a rather high-handed proceeding," thought
Matt. "No wonder some folks consider street merchants and traveling
auctioneers little better than thieves, when some of them act in that
fashion. I don't think he'll prosper, though, in the end."

He was about to continue on his way, when Paul Barberry caught sight
of him and came forward.

"Hullo, my young friend!" he called out pleasantly. "What brings you
to Easton--the big parade?"

Matt did not like this manner of being addressed. He considered the
corn salve doctor altogether too familiar, so he replied rather
coldly:

"Not particularly. We merely struck Easton in the course of our
travels."

"Oh, then you and your companion are still on the road with your
wagon?"

"Yes."

Paul Barberry seemed to grow interested at once.

"Good enough! And how is business?"

"Very good," returned Matt, and not without pardonable pride.

"Then you are not ready to take me in as a partner yet?"

"Not quite; my friend and I can run the business very well without
outside help."

"But you might make more money with me in the firm," went on Paul
Barberry persistently.

"We haven't room for a third person."

"Where are you stopping now?"

"We haven't a place yet. My partner and I have just started to look
for an empty store."

"Oh, then you are going to stay several days or a week."

"Yes."

"Where were you last?"

"Across the river."

"Do pretty well in Phillipsburg?"

"We did very well--until we began to run out of goods."

"I couldn't do anything in Phillipsburg," grumbled Paul Barberry.
"It's only a one-horse place, anyway. So you ran out of goods there?"

"We ran out of some goods--our best sellers."

"Why don't you send for more goods?"

"We have sent, and we are expecting the cases at any moment at the
Phillipsburg freight depot."

"Where is your horse and wagon?"

"Tied up at the depot over there," and to avoid being questioned
further, Matt began to move off.

"I think I can get a good store for you," went on Barberry, catching
him by the arm.

"Thank you, but I would prefer to do my own hunting," returned the
young auctioneer, still more coolly.

"Don't want anything to do with me, eh?" retorted the corn salve
vender angrily.

"I don't want you to take your valuable time in transacting my
business," returned Matt, and off he hurried, before Barberry could
offer any reply.

"He and his partner are mighty independent chaps," grumbled the
pretended doctor, as he gazed after Matt, with a scowl on his face. "I
suppose he thinks himself above me because he has a horse and wagon.
Well, maybe he won't be any better off than I am some day."

And, in far from a good humor, Paul Barberry resumed the sale of his
so-styled wonderful corn cure, a preparation, by the way, which was of
no value as a remedial agent.

Matt walked along for several blocks without running across any empty
stores that would be suitable for holding sales. Most of the places
were too small, and others were in out-of-the-way corners, to which
it would be next to impossible to attract a crowd.

At the appointed time he walked to the spot where he was to meet Andy.
His partner was waiting for him, a smile resting on his pleasant
face.

"Any luck, Matt?" he asked.

"None."

"I've struck something that I imagine will just suit us. Come on and
look at it."

The two hurried to the place Andy had in mind. It was, indeed, a good
store, and just in the right spot, and ten minutes later they were on
the way to hunt up the landlord and rent the place.

It was no easy matter to find the person for whom they were seeking,
and it was well along in the afternoon before the man who owned the
building was found. He agreed to let them have the store for four days
for ten dollars, and the bargain was closed on the spot.

Then they returned to the store and cleaned it up as best they could,
and at a little after five o'clock locked up and started back to
Phillipsburg to ascertain if their cases of goods had yet arrived.

The walk across the bridge did not take long, and the freight depot
was close at hand.

"Why, where is the horse and wagon?" cried Matt, as he discovered
that the turn-out was missing from the place where Billy had been
fastened.

"Well, that's what I would like to know," returned Andy. "I don't see
a thing of it anywhere, do you?"

They looked around, up one street and down another, but neither Billy
nor the gayly-painted wagon came into view.

"I'll ask the freight agent about it," said Matt, and he hurried into
the office.

"Your horse and wagon?" repeated the agent, in reply to his question.
"Why, I guess your man drove off with them."

"Our man?" gasped the young auctioneer.

"Yes; the one you sent around here to get those cases of goods you
were expecting. He took the cases, too."



CHAPTER XXIV.

ALONG THE RIVER.


Matt could do nothing but stare at the freight agent. A man had come
there and driven off with the horse and wagon and taken the cases of
goods with him. It seemed too bold-faced to be true.

"Our man?" he stammered. "We have no man."

"Didn't you send the man here?" demanded the agent, as he stopped
short in his work of checking off packages.

"We certainly did not," returned the young auctioneer. "Andy!" he
called out, as he stepped back toward the open door, and a moment
later Andy Dilks hurried into the depot.

"He says a man came here, got the cases of goods, and drove off with
Billy," cried Matt breathlessly. "You did not send any one here, did
you?"

"Certainly not," returned Andy promptly. "When was this?"

"Less than two hours ago," replied the freight agent, and he was now
all attention. "Do you mean to say the fellow was a thief?"

"He was!" cried Matt.

"I don't see how he could be anything else," added Andy. "Did he
pretend to have an order for the cases?"

"Yes, he had a written order."

"And the bill of lading?"

"N--no, he didn't have that," was the slow reply. "But I thought it
was all right. He looked like an honest chap. You had better notify
the police at once."

"We will," said Matt. "What sort of a looking fellow was he?"

As best he could the freight agent gave a description of the man who
had driven off with the goods and the turn-out. Matt and Andy both
listened attentively.

"By the boots, I'll bet it was that Paul Barberry!" almost shouted the
young auctioneer, ere the agent had ceased talking. "This is his way
of getting even with us for not taking him into partnership."

"Perhaps you are right," returned Andy. "Did you say anything to him
about the wagon being here?"

"I did." And Matt briefly narrated the conversation he had had with
the corn doctor.

Then the agent was questioned further, and it was not long before all
three were convinced that the pretended doctor was the guilty party.

"If I had known he wasn't square I would not have let him have the
cases of goods, that's sure," said the agent meekly.

"I do not doubt that," returned Andy. "But the loss of the horse and
wagon is more than we can stand as it is. We will have to hold the
railroad responsible for the three cases."

"Can't we go after the thief?" suggested the agent, considerably
worried, for he well knew that if the stolen cases were not recovered
the loss would come out of his own pocket.

"Have you a horse and wagon?"

"Yes, and I can get it in five minutes."

"What direction did the thief take, do you suppose?"

The freight agent thought for a moment.

"It is my opinion that he either went over to Easton or else up the
river."

"It is not likely that he went across the bridge," said Matt. "If it
was this Paul Barberry he would be afraid to take that direction,
fearing to meet me and my partner on our way here."

"Yes, that's so," put in Andy.

"Then he went up the river. There is quite a good road for a number of
miles."

"Well, supposing you get your horse and wagon," said Matt impatiently.
"It will not do to waste time here."

"But what of the police?" questioned Andy.

"We can notify them when we come back--that is, if we are unsuccessful."

"All right; hurry up that wagon, then."

The freight agent at once disappeared around the corner of the
building. He was gone nearly five minutes. When he returned he was
leading a fine black horse, attached to a light road wagon.

"Brought you Flip, my fast trotter," he explained. "He ought to be
able to overtake any bit of horseflesh in these parts."

"Well, we want a fast horse," replied Matt, as he sprang into the
wagon without delay. He was quickly followed by Andy and the freight
agent, and off they went at a spanking gait down the smooth road.

It was a fine day, cool and clear, and under any other circumstances
both Matt and Andy would have enjoyed the drive. But just now they
were filled with fears. Supposing they were unable to recover their
turn-out and goods what then?

The partners looked at each other, and that look meant but one thing.
They must recover their property. Such a thing as failure was not to
be countenanced.

At length Phillipsburg was left far behind, and they entered a
somewhat hilly farming section. Presently they came to a farmhouse
standing close to the road. There was an old countryman standing by
the gate, smoking a pipe leisurely, and Matt directed the freight
agent to draw rein.

"Good afternoon," said the young auctioneer politely. "I wish to ask
you for a bit of information."

"Well, son, what is it?" returned the old countryman, removing his
pipe from his mouth and gazing at all three curiously.

"Did an auction wagon pass this way a short while ago?"

"An auction wagon?"

"Yes, sir, a covered wagon, with the sign, 'Eureka Auction Co.,'
painted on the sides. It had a single white horse, with brown spots."

The old man's face lit up.

"Oh, yes; I saw that wagon," he replied.

"You did?" cried Andy. "We are very glad to hear it. Which way did it
go?"

"Right up that way," and the countryman waved his hand to the
northwest.

"Along the river still," said the freight agent. "I thought so."

He was about to drive on when Matt stopped him.

"Did you notice who was driving the wagon?" he called back.

"Yes, a tall man kind of shabbily dressed."

"Must be Barberry," muttered the young auctioneer.

"What's the trouble?" questioned the countryman curiously.

"The turn-out has been stolen, that's the trouble," replied the boy,
and off they sped again, leaving the old countryman staring after them
in open-mouthed wonder.

They turned from the main road, which about half a mile back had led
away from the Delaware, and took the side road the old man had
indicated. It was an uneven wagon track, and they went bumping over
rocks and stumps of trees in a most alarming fashion.

"He couldn't have gone far in this direction," muttered the freight
agent ruefully. "Why, it is enough to break the springs of any wagon
ever made."

"My idea is that he had an object in coming down here," responded Andy
thoughtfully. "Is there any sort of bridge in the neighborhood?"

The agent shook his head.

"No."

"Or a place where the river might be forded?"

"Not now. The heavy rains have swollen the stream, as you can see. In
real dry weather he might find a place to ford."

"Well, it's certain that if he came this way to merely get out of our
reach he chose an awful way of doing it," remarked Matt, as a sudden
lurch of the wagon sent him bouncing up into the air. "This is the
worst riding I've struck yet."

"Worse than when Billy ran away?" questioned Andy, with a sudden gleam
of humor.

"Well, hardly that," admitted the young auctioneer. "But that wasn't
riding at all. That was a slap-bang, go-as-you-please trip, which
didn't--hullo! look there!"

He motioned to the freight agent to draw rein and pointed to a deep
track in a soft bit of ground ahead.

"It's the track of our wagon sure enough!" exclaimed Andy. "I could
tell it out of a hundred."

"So could I, Andy. Follow that, please," went on Matt, to the agent.

"It's queer you didn't see that track before," said the driver
slowly.

"The reason is because it comes from the rocks. Barberry thought it
best to keep on the rocks, I suppose. Maybe he thought he would get
stuck in the mud with the cases if he got on soft ground."

"That's the truth of it, you can depend on it," said Andy. "Hurry up
and follow that track to the end, and we'll soon have our wagon and
goods back."

On and on they went, over soft patches of ground, through low bushes,
and around rocks and fallen trees. Sometimes they were close to the
water's edge, and again they traveled almost out of sight of the
clear-flowing stream.

"We can't go much further in this direction," said the freight agent,
when all of a mile of ground had been covered.

"Why not?" asked Andy.

"There is a big wall of rock just ahead. We will have to pull away
from the river now."

"No, we won't!" shouted Matt. "Look there!"

And he pointed to where the wagon tracks led directly down into the
water.

"I'll bet all I am worth that he crossed the stream here," he went on.
"Do you not see how shallow it is? He went over to that island, and
from there directly to the other side."



CHAPTER XXV.

A BITTER MISTAKE.


Both Andy and the freight agent saw at once that Matt was right, and
the jaw of the driver of the wagon dropped.

"Humph! I was certain he couldn't cross right after such heavy rains,"
he said moodily.

"But you see he has crossed," went on the young auctioneer. "I will
tell you what I'm going to do--wade across and see if I can't strike
the tracks on the other side."

"You'll get pretty wet, especially if you slip into a deep hole,"
returned Andy.

"I'll take off part of my clothing," returned Matt, and he did so
without delay.

The water was colder than he had anticipated, and he shivered slightly
as he waded in deeper and deeper.

"Can you swim, should you slip?" called out Andy anxiously.

"Yes, I can swim," returned Matt, "but I hope that won't be
necessary!"

Moving along cautiously where the rocks stuck up the highest, the
young auctioneer worked his way slowly over to the island he had
previously pointed out. It was painful work, for he had taken off his
shoes, and now he found the bottom in many places cut his feet. But at
last the island was reached, and he walked out upon the dry ground.

It did not take Matt long to discover the wagon tracks for which he
was searching. They were close at hand, and led almost in a straight
line across the little patch, which was not over two hundred feet in
width.

"Here they are!" he shouted back to the others. "He went right across
just as I supposed."

"Humph! Now what is to be done?" questioned the agent, with a
perplexed look upon his face.

"We must cross and follow him," replied Andy determinedly.

"Do you want me to take the horse and wagon across?"

"Why not? The thief took that heavily loaded wagon over. I guess this
light affair will go over all right."

The agent was doubtful about this, and rubbed his chin reflectively.

"I might drive on till I got to a bridge, or turn back to one," he
suggested.

"That would take too long," returned Matt's partner impatiently. "We
must 'strike while the iron is hot,' as the saying is."

"Come on!" shouted Matt from the island. "Come straight over and you
will be all right."

"Well, we can make the venture, but I am a bit shaky over it," said
the freight agent, and with a face full of the concern he felt for his
turn-out he headed his trotter toward the water.

At first the horse was inclined to shy to one side. He pranced up and
down a bit and dug into the sand and loose stones with his hoofs.

"You can see he don't want to go," said the driver. "I really think we
had better find a bridge."

"Oh, nonsense! give me the reins!" returned Andy sharply, seeing that
the fellow was altogether too easily frightened. "I will take him over
safely."

"Don't be too sure!" cried the agent in alarm. "He will break at the
least little thing!"

But Andy would not listen to him further. He took the reins, and
holding them firmly, tapped the trotter with the whip.

The horse made a rush into the water, and in less than ten seconds the
wagon was in up to the axles.

"We will be drowned! We will be drowned!" cried the agent in sudden
terror. "I can't swim!"

"We won't be drowned. Just you hold on and keep quiet," returned Andy
shortly.

"But--but we are going deeper!"

"Not much deeper. I can still see the bottom."

"Supposing we should slip--or Flip should slip?"

"Or we had an earthquake," added Andy, utterly disgusted with the
freight agent's actions. "Don't you want to get back those cases, or
do you prefer to pay for them?"

This last remark effectually silenced the man. He clung to the seat
looking badly scared, but he offered no more suggestions.

With due caution, but as rapidly as possible, Andy drove the horse
over the rocks, carefully avoiding such spots as he thought might be
extra deep or slippery. Matt, on the island, shouted several
directions to him; and thus the journey was safely accomplished.

"Good so far!" cried the young auctioneer, when the horse was once
more on dry ground. "That was easy enough."

"Easier than I thought it would be!" exclaimed the freight agent, with
a deep breath of relief. "I wish we were over all the way!"

"The second trip will be easier than the first was," remarked Andy.
"It is much more shallow."

"I will wade ahead and make sure of the way," put in Matt, and without
loss of time he started out.

It was not so deep toward the Pennsylvania shore, but the current
appeared to run swifter, and the boy had all he could do when up to
his thighs to keep his feet. But the horse and wagon came along all
right, and inside of ten minutes they were high and dry upon the
opposite bank.

Here it did not take long to rediscover the tracks made by the auction
turn-out, and as soon as Matt could don what clothing he had taken
off, they started to follow it up once more.

"I can't see why he crossed the river in that fashion," grumbled the
freight agent, as he tapped his horse with the whip.

"I can," returned Andy. "He did it to throw us off the track. He had
no time to get rid of the signs on the wagon, and he knew we would
learn, sooner or later, in what direction he had gone. But he thought
we would not find out how he had crossed and would think that he had
kept along on the eastern bank."

On and on they went, over the rocky roads, now through a sharp cut
between the mountains, and then again around a curve overlooking some
tiny stream far below.

"A beautiful place," said Matt, as his eyes rested on a particularly
beautiful bit of picturesque scenery. "How can people stick in the
stuffy city when there is so much like this going to waste, so to
speak?"

"That's a conundrum," returned Andy. "But I have heard it said that
many city-born folks would rather die between brick walls than live
amid green fields."

"Just look at those rocks and trees, and listen to those birds sing!"

"It is truly grand, that's a fact," returned Andy. "Do you know, if I
was wealthy, I believe I would like nothing better than to spend all
of my summer in among the mountains."

"And that would just suit me," returned Matt enthusiastically, and
then he suddenly sobered down. "But we are not rich, Andy, and unless
we get back our turn-out we'll be as poor as ever."

"Oh, we'll have to catch that thief," put in the freight agent. "He
can't be many miles ahead."

"The trouble is it's growing dark, and we can hardly see the wagon
tracks any more," said the young auctioneer.

"It grows dark early in among the mountains," remarked Andy. "If the
land was level, it would be light enough."

On they went, passing through several little hamlets. At each of these
places they inquired about the auction wagon, and were told that it
had passed through, the man driving at almost top speed.

"He is going to get away as far as he can before he puts up for the
night," said Andy. "I do not believe we will catch him until we reach
the place at which he is stopping."

"My trotter is not used to this sort of thing," said the freight
agent. "He is beginning to play out."

"At the next town we reach we can hire a horse," said Matt. "And you
can go back if you wish. There is no telling how long this chase may
last."

"I ought to be back attending to business," was the agent's reply. "My
clerk can hardly take my place. Would you two be willing to go on
alone?"

"Certainly," returned Andy.

The next place, a village of perhaps twenty or thirty houses and half
a dozen stores, was soon reached. There was a small tavern, and they
drove up to this. Alighting, Matt ran inside and questioned the half
a score of loungers concerning the auction wagon.

Every man in the place shook his head. The wagon had not been seen in
the village. Nearly all of the men had just come in from work, and
every one said that had the wagon been on the main road at all he
would have seen it.

Matt listened with a sinking heart, and as Andy came in he grasped his
partner by the shoulder.

"We have made a mistake," he said faintly.

"A mistake, Matt?"

"Yes. The wagon did not come here at all. We are on the wrong track!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

SOMETHING OF A SURPRISE.


Andy was certainly as much dismayed as Matt at the discovery which had
been made. Just at the time when they supposed that they were drawing
closer to the object of their chase, they found that they were most
likely further away than ever. The older member of the firm gave
another groan, and this was supplemented by another from the freight
agent.

"I knew he couldn't cross that river," growled the latter. "Now, just
see what a wild goose chase you have led us!"

"Oh, he crossed the river, there is no doubt of that!" returned Matt
quickly. "But where we got off the track was somewhere among the
mountains. We dropped the right track and took something that
resembled it."

"Yes, that must be the truth of the matter," put in Andy. "It's too
bad!"

"What's it all about, anyway?" questioned the tavern-keeper
curiously.

In a few brief words Andy explained matters, while not only the
tavern-keeper, but also the others in the place, listened with deep
interest.

"Any reward offered for catching the rascal?" questioned one of the
men present, a brawny individual--evidently a mountaineer.

"Yes," returned Matt quickly. "How much shall we offer, Andy?" he
asked in a whisper.

"Twenty-five dollars would not be too much," returned his partner. "It
is quite a sum to us, I know, but I guess we would rather have our
turn-out back a dozen times over."

"We will give twenty-five dollars in cash for the return of our horse,
wagon and goods," said Matt, in a voice loud enough for all to hear.

"Twenty-five dollars in cash!" repeated several, and it was plain to
see that this offer was regarded as quite liberal.

"What kind of a looking turn-out is it?" was next asked.

Matt described Billy and the wagon. All listened attentively, and when
he had finished the mountaineer who had first spoken tapped him on the
shoulder.

"I'll go out with ye and hunt him up, stranger."

"So will I!" cried another.

"And I!" added a third, and soon six men stood ready to continue the
search with Andy and Matt.

Seeing this, the freight agent decided to drive back home, taking a
much better road, which led down to Easton. He did not lose any time
in starting, and, if the truth must be told, both Andy and Matt were
glad to be rid of him.

After he had gone the auctioneers procured another horse and wagon
from the tavern-keeper and also a couple of lanterns. The mountaineer
had a mule upon which he rode, and the other men went along on foot.

They traveled the road by which the young auctioneers had come. The
village was situated in a small open spot, and now, when they once
more found themselves between the mountains, they were enveloped in a
darkness which the rays of the lanterns scarcely dispersed.

They traveled along as rapidly as possible, and inside of half an hour
came to a fork in the road which Matt had had in mind since the
discovery of their mistake had been made.

"We will examine the ground here," he said. "It is more than likely he
branched off here."

He was soon hard at work, and all of the others with him. The wagon
track they had followed was very plainly to be seen, and now Matt
saw, at a spot which was covered with loose stones, where the thief
had branched off with his stolen outfit.

"That is the road he took," he announced to the others. "Had we
followed him from here in the first place we would most likely have
caught up to him by this time."

"Is that 'ere track the right one?" questioned the mountaineer
eagerly.

"I believe it is."

"Then I'm off fer the reward!" shouted the brawny fellow. "Git up,
Bones!" and he slapped the mule with the flat of his hand, and was off
without another word.

"Ramson will get it, sure," grumbled one of the other men. "No use for
us to go any further."

And he turned on his heel and started back for the village, followed
by most of the others, leaving a single man to race after the
mountaineer on foot.

Matt and Andy were not slow to urge their fresh horse forward. But the
way was now even darker than before and also rougher, and it was with
difficulty that the wagon moved along.

"I don't believe he went very far on this road," said Matt, bringing
the horse to a halt. "I am going to follow that track on foot."

He sprang down from the seat, and with the light close to the ground,
moved along in front of the horse. It was well that he did so, for
hardly had he advanced a hundred feet than he uttered a cry and came
to a halt.

"What's up now?" questioned Andy, peering forward through the gloom.

"He turned off here and went into the brush on the left. Don't you see
the tracks?"

"But there is no road through the brush. He would lose his way and get
caught among the rocks further back."

"I have an idea that he drove away in here to hide the wagon,"
suddenly cried Matt. "He could very well do that, you know, and then
ride off on horseback to some place and put up for the night."

"By the boots, I believe you are right!" returned Andy. "Why, of
course that is just what he has done! How stupid of us not to think of
that before."

"I hope the wagon is still O. K.," went on Matt. "It would be hard
work to get a spring fixed in this out-of-the-way place."

"Well, we must find the wagon first. Supposing we tie up and go ahead
on foot."

"I'm willing."

They were soon side by side, making their way through the brush and
around the rocks as rapidly as they could.

"Let us go forward as silently as possible!" suddenly whispered the
boy. "Barberry may still be around, and if that is so we want to
surprise him."

"That's a good idea! What a pity we can't put out the light."

"We can't do without it. The track is growing fainter. We are coming
to almost solid rock."

On and on they pushed, until Andy calculated that they had covered a
distance of five hundred feet from the main road. Then they found
themselves on the verge of a deep ravine, with a high wall of rock to
the left of them.

"Phew! supposing he drove over that!" shuddered Andy, as he pointed
into the blackness of the hollow. "That must be a hundred feet or more
deep."

"He went to the right, Andy--the only way he could go. Have you any
matches with you?"

"Yes. What do you want of them?"

"I am going to put out the light, for I fancy the wagon is not far
off, and the thief may be around also. If we wish we can light up
again later on."

Matt did as he had intimated, and the two found themselves in a
darkness that was simply intense to the last degree. They could not
see their hands before their faces, and had to literally feel their
way along.

Matt went first, with his partner holding on to the hem of his jacket.
They had progressed but a dozen feet when, on rounding a high rock,
the young auctioneer stopped once more.

"I was right," he whispered. "The wagon is directly ahead."

"How do you know?"

"I can see the lantern, which is standing on the seat."

"Then the thief must still be around," returned Andy excitedly.

"I suppose so, but I don't see any one. Come on, but don't make any
noise, or he may run away, and I think he ought to be captured and
locked up."

"Certainly he ought to be placed under arrest. I am ready. Won't he be
surprised when he sees us!"

Once again they moved forward toward where the auction wagon stood
beneath the shelter of a large tree. Matt noted that Billy had been
unharnessed and was tied to the rear, where he was engaged in making a
meal of some feed which had been given him.

"Barberry is making himself at home evidently," murmured the young
auctioneer to himself. "That fellow certainly has nerve!"

"Hold up!" suddenly cried Andy, catching the boy by the arm.

"What's up, Andy?"

"Look there, to your right!"

Matt did as directed, and saw a sight which both amazed and alarmed
him. There, by a little fire built to keep them comfortable in the
night air, sat two burly men, drinking and smoking. Neither of the
individuals was Paul Barberry.



CHAPTER XXVII.

TIMELY ASSISTANCE.


"Those fellows must be the thieves," whispered Andy, as he pointed to
the pair beneath the tree.

"I believe you are right," returned Matt. "If so, we have made a big
mistake. Neither of them is Paul Barberry, and I was almost certain he
was the thief."

"So was I, Matt. But never mind that now. What worries me is the fact
that there are two of them."

"Yes, and they both look like strong fellows," returned the young
auctioneer, as he surveyed the pair. "If they get ugly when we claim
the turn-out we may have a lively time with them."

"Well, we are in the right, and we must stick up for our own."

"Of course we'll do that," cried Matt determinedly. "But I say,
wouldn't it be best if we each got a stout stick? They may show fight
if they fancy we are beyond outside aid."

"Perhaps we can bluff them into believing that we have the village
authorities at our back," suggested Andy. "I would rather frighten
them off than run the risk of coming off second best in a set-to with
them."

"Hi! what are you fellows doing here?" suddenly demanded a voice just
behind Andy. "Do you belong--what, you?"

And the speaker, none other than Paul Barberry, stepped back in
amazement.

"What's the trouble there, Barberry?" cried one of the men by the
fire, and both sprang up in alarm.

"Why, here are the--the--a couple of young fellows," stammered the
corn salve doctor. He was so surprised he could hardly speak. "How did
you get here?" he asked slowly.

"Never mind that," returned Matt. "I imagine you know what we are here
for."

"No, I don't."

"Really!" returned Andy sarcastically. "Well, then, let me tell you
that we came for our horse and wagon and stock."

"I haven't anything of yours," returned Paul Barberry, gradually
recovering from his surprise. In making a circle around the improvised
camp he had stumbled upon them quite unexpectedly. "You talk as if I
was a thief."

"Didn't you run off with that horse and wagon?" demanded Matt.

"Run off with it? No, why should I? The outfit belongs to me. Isn't
that so, boys?" and the corn salve doctor turned to his burly
companions.

"Why, of course it does!" returned the men.

A thunderbolt from the sky at that moment would not have taken Andy
and Matt more by surprise than did this statement. Paul Barberry's
assurance actually staggered them, and neither could speak for the
moment.

"That outfit belongs to you?" cried Matt at length.

"Of course."

"That's the biggest falsehood I ever heard in my life!" burst out
Andy. "You know very well that everything there belongs to us."

"I know no such thing," returned Barberry coldly. "I bought the outfit
from you, and you know it. These gentlemen know it also."

And he waved his hand toward his companions.

"Certainly, we know all about it," said one of the men.

"Yes, we saw the money paid over," added the second fellow.

Matt and Andy looked at each other. Each knew very well that the other
had never made any bargain for the sale of the turn-out and stock.
The whole scheme was one of the corn doctor to get possession of their
belongings.

"See here, Barberry, there is no use for you to talk in this fashion,"
went on Matt, as calmly as he could, although he was worked up to the
top notch of excitement. "You know very well that you are asserting
that which is not true. The outfit belongs to us, and you haven't the
shadow of an interest in it. You stole it from the Phillipsburg
freight depot, and----"

"Stop that!" blustered the corn salve doctor. "How dare you call me a
thief, boy?"

"That is what you are, and nothing less. If you----"

"Do you hear that, fellows?" interrupted Barberry, turning to the two
men.

"You want to keep a civil tongue in your head, boy!" cried one of the
men sharply. "Calling a man a thief is a serious business."

"And being a thief is still more serious," replied Andy. "Perhaps you
fancy you can bluff us, as the saying is, but you are mistaken. This
turn-out is ours, and we are here to claim it. If you molest us in the
least we will hand you all over to the police."

"We can stand up for ourselves," returned the man with a deep scowl.
"We are three to two, and we are armed."

"So you would use force to retain our property, eh?" said Andy.

"We do not admit that it is your property."

"But it is. Now let me tell you something. We stopped at the village
just north of here, and got the assistance of nearly a dozen men. They
are scattered about, and should you attempt to molest us I shall give
them a signal----"

"Not much you won't!" cried the man addressed, and springing forward,
he clapped his hand over Andy's mouth. "Tend to the other one,
fellows, I can manage this one!"

"All right," returned his companion, and he, as well as Paul Barberry,
fell upon Matt.

The attack had been so sudden that Andy and Matt were hardly prepared
to defend themselves. The former was forced over on his back, and
despite his utmost exertions, was unable to remove his assailant's
hand from his mouth.

Matt was thrown over on his side, and while Paul Barberry held one of
his arms, the other man tried to force him into silence.

"Make a single sound and I'll kick you in the face," he ejaculated in
a low, but intense tone.

"Help! help!" cried Matt, ignoring the threat entirely, and he
continued to call out so long as his breath lasted.

The burly ruffian tried to kick him as he had promised, but with his
disengaged hand Matt caught his foot, and after dancing about to
regain his balance, the man came down heavily across the young
auctioneer's legs.

The force of the fall was so great that Matt cried out shrilly with
pain. For the moment he imagined that both of his limbs must be
broken.

"Clap your hand over his mouth, Barberry!" cried the burly man, as he
struggled to regain his feet. "Confound you, boy, I'll teach you to
throw me!"

He sprang at Matt, but not before the young auctioneer had had a
chance to turn over and spring up. Matt realized what was at stake,
and knew he must fight his best or the worst would happen.

Before the man could touch him Matt placed Barberry between them. Then
he gave the corn doctor a push that sent him staggering up against his
companion.

In the meantime, poor Andy was still flat on his back, unable to speak
or to move. His assailant was on top of him, and there did not appear
to be any immediate relief in sight.

Seeing this, Matt, as soon as he had freed himself, leaped to his
partner's assistance. He caught the ruffian by the shoulders, and with
a sharp jerk sent him sprawling flat upon his back on a number of
sharp stones.

"Go at them with stones, Andy," shouted Matt, as he himself stooped to
pick up a small rock which lay at his feet. "We ought to show them no
mercy!"

"That's true," panted his partner as he followed the suggestion by
arming himself with several handy missiles. "They are a set of cowards
in my opinion."

"We'll show you if we are!" cried the fellow who had first attacked
Matt. "Come on, Barberry, we must make them prisoners!"

And once more he sprang forward, while the fellow on his back, with a
groan of pain, staggered up to lend his assistance in the struggle.

But now came help for Matt and Andy from an unexpected quarter. There
was a crashing through the brush, and a tall form the thieves did not
recognize burst into view. It was Ramson, the mountaineer.

"Wot's a-going on here, anyway?" shouted the mountaineer in a tone of
wonder. "Fighting worse nor a lot of bears, I declare! Wot's it all
about?"

"Help us, won't you?" cried Matt. "These are the fellows who stole
the turn-out, and they will not give it up."

"Won't, hey? Well, it's your'n, ain't it?"

"It certainly is, and if you will help us you shall have that reward,"
put in Andy. "This is the main thief, and the other two are helping
him," and he pointed to Paul Barberry.

Without more ceremony, the tall mountaineer strode forward and caught
Barberry by the shoulder and gave him such a twist about that the
pretended doctor howled with pain.

"These two young men are honest fellows, I take it," he said. "And if
you imagine you can do them out of their rights you are mistaken, at
least so long as I am around. Now just you stand still while I attend
to your helpers, and I'll--hullo! if they ain't gone and run away!"

Ramson was right. Hardly had he made his little speech than Paul
Barberry's two companions had taken time by the forelock and made a
rush for the brush. Matt and Andy dashed after them, but it was
useless, for a few seconds later they disappeared in the darkness.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

BACK TO THE VILLAGE.


"Never mind, let them go," said Andy, as he saw the mountaineer make a
movement as if to follow the retreading pair. "I do not think that
they have any of the stolen things in their possession."

"But they ought to be locked up," insisted Ramson. "Such thieves ought
never to be allowed their liberty."

"I agree with you, but as matters stand, we cannot bother to follow
them just now."

"Maybe this fellow will tell us who they were. I didn't get a square
look at them," went on the mountaineer, who felt sore to think the
pair had gotten away thus easily.

"Yes, I imagine we can learn from Barberry who they are," put in Matt,
as he caught the pretended doctor by the arm. "Don't you try to run,"
he added.

Paul Barberry appeared greatly disconcerted. He had not expected this
sudden turn of affairs, and he knew not what to say or do.

"March him up to the wagon and light the other lantern," said Andy. "I
see the fire is going out."

"I'll soon fix that," returned Ramson, and he threw on some dry twigs,
causing the fire to blaze up merrily. "They were making themselves
quite at home."

"What are you going to do with me?" asked Barberry sullenly, as he
found himself surrounded, with no hope of escape.

"Before we answer that question we wish to ask a few on our account,"
returned Andy. "Now tell us who your companions were."

"A couple of tramps I picked up in Phillipsburg."

"Tramps?"

"That is what I call them. They were bound for Easton to sell prize
packages of toilet soap."

"Fakirs, like yourself," put in Matt. "How did you come to pick them
up? Were you afraid to steal the outfit alone?"

"I didn't say I stole the outfit."

"No, but you did, nevertheless. Now, how did you happen to fall in
with those fakirs?"

"Will you let me go if I tell you?"

"Certainly not," cried the boy. "We intend to put you where you will
not be able to steal any more for some time to come."

"Arrest me?" exclaimed Paul Barberry, in great alarm. Evidently he had
not thought such a thing at all likely.

"Yes," put in Andy. "And unless you do as we wish you to it may go
mighty hard with you."

"But I'll stick to it that I bought the turn-out," returned the corn
salve doctor, trying to put on a bold front. "You'll have to prove
that you didn't make the sale. I won't be bulldozed."

"Get a rope and bind him, Matt," said Andy, paying no attention to the
last remark. "We'll take him to the nearest police station. I suppose
there will have to be some papers made out before he can be taken back
to New Jersey."

The young auctioneer sprang into the wagon and soon brought forth a
long and stout rope. Paul Barberry watched these preparations with an
anxious face, and when Ramson stepped forward to aid in making him a
close prisoner he began to wilt.

"See here," he said, addressing Andy and Matt, "I don't want to be
locked up. It would injure my reputation to a great extent. I am
willing to admit that I have done wrong, but I--I--did it by mistake.
I haven't felt well for several days, and my head has been affected,
that's the whole truth of the matter. When I get those spells I don't
know what I am doing."

"He's a good one at crawling," remarked Ramson in disgust. "He'll get
over the spells when he's locked up."

In spite of his protestations and pleadings, Barberry was tightly
bound and fastened to the rear of the wagon. Then Billy, who had had
quite a rest, was harnessed up once more, and with Matt on the seat
and Ramson going on ahead to pick the way, they started off for the
village, Andy keeping in the rear to see to it that their prisoner
should not escape.

The way was dark and uncertain, but the tall mountaineer proved a good
and careful guide, and at the end of an hour and a half the worst part
of the journey was over. They entered the village just as the town
clock was striking one.

"If you want the man arrested you had better take him directly to
Justice Harwig's house," said Ramson. "He does all the law business in
these parts."

So to that individual's cottage they turned, and Matt sprang from the
wagon and used the old-fashioned knocker vigorously. A long silence
followed, and then a window upstairs was raised and a head adorned
with a nightcap was thrust out.

"What's wanted?"

"We've got a criminal for ye, judge," called out Ramson. "The fellow
as run away with that auction turn-out."

"A criminal, eh? All right, I'll be down in a minnit!"

The head disappeared and the window was closed. Five minutes passed
and then a light appeared in a wing of the house, and the justice
opened the door to what he termed his office.

"Now, what's it all about?" he asked in a sleepy voice.

All hands entered the place, Andy and the mountaineer leading Paul
Barberry, who looked anything but comfortable. The prisoner was
marched up before the justice's desk, and the others ranged themselves
alongside of him, while Justice Harwig, a very pleasant man, made
himself comfortable to listen to what all hands might have to say.

The hearing was a short one, and at its conclusion Paul Barberry was
marched off to the village lock-up, the justice stating that he would
notify the Phillipsburg authorities, so that they could get the
necessary papers and take him away.

Barberry did all he could to beg off, offering at the last moment to
pay a fine equal to the amount of money in his pocket--eighteen
dollars. But neither the justice nor the others would listen to this.
Had he not made the fight, Matt and Andy might have had some pity on
him, but they were but human and could not so easily forget the blows
they had suffered at the hands of the thieves.

It was not deemed worth while to send out any one to look for the two
men who had escaped, and after Barberry was safe in jail the young
auctioneers drove over to the tavern and put up there for the night.
Ramson accompanied them, and before parting with the mountaineer they
paid him the reward that had been promised, for which he was very
thankful.

On the following morning Matt and Andy lost no time in starting back
for Easton, telling Justice Harwig that they would report to the
authorities in Phillipsburg whenever wanted. They found that the
turn-out had suffered no damage by being stolen. The new goods which
had been in the cases had been stored away in some confusion, but Andy
soon straightened this out.

"I tell you we can consider ourselves very lucky to get out of this so
nicely," he said, after he had finished his work and knew all was
right. "As it stands, we will be out hardly a cent."

"Yes, we were lucky," returned Matt. "But we wouldn't have been had we
taken that freight agent's advice and remained on the other side of
the Delaware."

"Well, no doubt he'll be glad to learn that we have recovered the
goods. It saves him something like seventy-eight dollars."

"We will lose the best part of to-day's trade, for we won't be able to
get back much before two or three o'clock."

"Never mind, the city is full of people, and we ought to do best in
the evening," replied Andy.

It was a cool, clear day, and although both were rather tired from the
adventures of the night before, they enjoyed the drive back to Easton.
At first Andy drove, while Matt took it easy on the goods in the back
of the wagon, and when half the distance was covered the partners
changed places, so that by the time the store they had previously
hired was reached, both were sufficiently rested to go ahead with the
duties on hand.

They lost no time in transferring the stock to the store shelves,
after which Andy drove off with the wagon and found a stable where the
turn-out might be put up during their stay. Matt arranged the stock on
the shelves, and made a great window display. The red flag was hung
out, and inside of an hour afterward business was in full swing.



CHAPTER XXIX.

UNDESIRABLE CUSTOMERS.


Among their customers they numbered a great many fire laddies, and
these they made it a point to treat extra well, selling them goods at
almost cost. As a consequence the firemen told their friends, and by
eight o'clock that evening the store was packed.

"This is going to be the banner day after all," whispered Andy, just
after making several good sales. "I believe we can keep things moving
until midnight."

They found a great demand for pocket-knives and cheap jewelry, and by
playing on the instruments they sold over three dozen mouth harmonicas
and three accordions. Then Andy and Matt gave a duet on the violin and
banjo, and as a consequence, sold both of the instruments they had
handled.

The music had attracted even a greater crowd, and among the people
were four tall and rather ugly-looking colored men. They shoved their
way forward rudely, causing some timid customers to leave in a hurry,
and then began to laugh and joke among themselves in a loud and coarse
manner.

"I am afraid we are going to have trouble with those chaps," whispered
Matt to his partner. "They have been drinking, and they are out for a
lark."

"That's my idea, too," returned Andy. "We must watch them closely."

For a few minutes the young auctioneers paid no attention to the four
negroes, excepting to see that they did not take up something without
laying it down again. The fellows moved around through the crowd, and
at length two of them leaned up heavily against one of the show-cases
which belonged to the store fixtures.

The combined weight of the two men was too much for the top glass of
the case, and with a sharp crack it broke into half a dozen pieces.

"Hullo! dat glass dun gone and got broke!" cried one of the negroes.
"I wonder how dat happened?"

"You broke that glass!" exclaimed Matt sharply. "You and your
companion."

"Me?" returned the offender in pretended surprise.

"Yes, you--and your friend."

"Dat ain't so at all, boss! We didn't touch dat yere glass. Did we,
Jeff?"

"'Deed we didn't, Tooker."

"We didn't come in here to do no kind ob damage, boss."

"Never mind what you came in for," returned Matt. "You broke the glass
and you will have to pay for it."

At the young auctioneer's statement the faces of all four of the
colored men took on a savage look. They had drifted in to do pretty
much as they pleased, and had not expected to meet with such strong
and sudden opposition.

"I won't pay for nuffin!" growled the ringleader of the quartet. "I
dun reckon somebody else in the crowd broke the glass."

"Cos da did," replied another of the colored men. "Maybe yo' think yo'
kin lay it on us just because we is colored, hey?"

"Not at all; a colored man can be as much of a gentleman as any
one--if he wishes to be," put in Andy.

"Do youse mean to insinuate dat we ain't gen'men?" questioned one of
the crowd roughly.

"You are not gentlemen when you break glass and refuse to pay for it,"
returned Andy. "That glass is worth at least a dollar, and unless it
is paid for, somebody will be handed over to the police."

"Huh! do yo' fink yo' kin scare us, boss?"

"Yo' say another word an' we'll do up de hull place!"

"We is as good as any white trash, remember dat!"

In the meantime one of the colored men slid his hand into the
show-case which had been damaged, and essayed to grab a small box of
watch-chains which rested close by. Matt saw the movement, slick as it
was, just in time, and springing forward he caught the colored man by
the arm.

"Drop that box!" he cried sternly.

"Oh, I wasn't gwine to take de box," returned the would-be offender.
"I was jess gwine to look at yo' stock. How much is dem chains
worth?"

"I am not selling chains to you to-night," returned Matt.

He had hardly spoken when Andy leaned over his shoulder and whispered
into his ear:

"Talk to them for a few minutes, and I'll slip out and notify the
police. Treat them well until I get back."

And the next instant Matt's partner had disappeared into the crowd,
without any of the colored men noticing his departure.

"Yo' don't want to sell me any chain?" repeated the colored man.

"Not to-night."

"Why not?"

"This isn't chain night. I'm selling harmonicas and banjos."

"Well, let's see some banjos den," put in another of the negroes, and
he winked at his companions, thinking that Matt had become too scared
to refer to the broken show-case again.

"All right, but I don't want any more show-cases broken," returned the
young auctioneer.

He took a banjo from one of the cases and began to tune it up slowly.

"Kin yo' play us a jig?" asked one of the colored men, while the white
people in the place looked on in wonder at the turn affairs had
taken.

"Oh, yes, I can play a jig," returned Matt coolly.

"Den give us one now."

"You will have to wait until I am done tuning up, gentlemen."

"All right, we'll wait."

Matt tuned up more slowly than ever, and even allowed one of the
strings to break that he might gain an extra minute in repairing the
damage. At last, after fully five minutes had passed, the banjo was
in order for use, and the young auctioneer struck off a few chords.

"Now give us dat jig if yo' kin play it," said the colored man
impatiently. He was the same who had tried to steal the box of
chains.

"I won't play a jig until you and your companion pay for the glass you
broke," returned Matt shortly, and he laid down the instrument
abruptly, and folded his arms.

"Wot?" roared the colored men in concert.

"You heard what I said."

"See here; do yo' want us to smash de hull place?" demanded the
ringleader of the disturbers.

"I don't think you'll smash anything more," replied Matt.

"I won't, hey? We'll see!"

The colored man made a movement as if to strike the young auctioneer
in the face. But before the blow could land he was hauled back by a
strong arm. He and his companions looked around and found themselves
confronted by two policemen whom Andy had fortunately met upon the
corner below.

The two colored men who had kept somewhat in the background at once
sneaked through the crowd and escaped through the open doorway. The
other two, the ones who had done the damage, were held by the
policemen, much to their discomfiture.

A lively talk followed, and then upon payment for the damage done, the
colored men were allowed to go, first being warned by Matt and Andy
not to show themselves in the store again. Had they not paid up they
would have been arrested.

After this scene was ended one of the policemen remained in the
vicinity of the place for all the while the store remained open. But
nothing more occurred to disturb the auction sales.

Business in Easton was so good that they remained there until Tuesday
of the following week. During that time they took in nearly two
hundred dollars, leaving them a profit, after all expenses were met,
of forty-five dollars.

On Saturday morning Matt and Andy were called to Belvidere, the county
seat, to testify against Barberry for the robbery at Phillipsburg.
Strange to say, Barberry pleaded guilty, so the two boys had no
trouble in the way of being detained as witnesses against him. The
corn salve doctor was held for sentence.

After leaving Easton Matt and Andy struck out for Bethlehem and
Allentown. The weather was now growing gradually colder, but they
calculated that they would have at least a month of weather which
would be fit to travel in, even in this mountainous country.

"At Allentown we can stop long enough for me to take a trip to
Philadelphia and buy goods," remarked Andy as they were driving out of
Easton.

"Just as you say," returned Matt. "I am glad we have to stock up so
often, and I am looking forward to the time when it will be necessary
for us to buy a larger wagon and get another horse to put beside
Billy."

"It will hardly pay us to buy another horse this fall. You must
remember that we are to locate in some place during the winter. I have
no desire to move around much when the thermometer is below the
freezing point."

They were soon on the outskirts of Easton, and then they struck a
rather rough road leading over numerous hills and around jagged
rocks.

"By jinks! I believe we have missed the way," remarked Matt, as at
last he brought Billy to a standstill. "That stable-keeper said the
road was a good one, and I fail to find this so."

"We'll stop at the next house and find out," returned Andy. "Do you
see any place in sight?"

"There is a cottage down in the hollow yonder. Stay here with Billy,
and I'll ask the way there."

Matt sprang from the wagon and was soon hurrying across a barren bit
of pasture land that led down to a brook which was all but dried up.
The cottage stood upon the bank of the brook, and walking up to it,
the young auctioneer rapped upon the door.

There was an exclamation of surprise from within, and then he was
asked to enter. He did so, and was greatly vexed to find himself in
the presence of three of the colored men who had created the
disturbance in the store but a few nights before!



CHAPTER XXX.

A DASH FROM DANGER.


Had Matt known that he would meet three of the colored men in the
cottage in the hollow, it is more than likely that he would not have
gone near the place.

When he and Andy had had the trouble at the store, the two men who had
been compelled to pay for the broken glass had gone off in anything
but a happy frame of mind, and the young auctioneer had then remarked
to his partner that they might have trouble with the men should they
chance to meet them away from police protection.

Matt saw at once that the negroes recognized him, and that his
reception would be far from agreeable. Had he been less courageous he
would have turned and fled, but as it was, he stood his ground.

All three of the colored men had been seated around a kitchen table
playing cards, but at his entrance the two who had been the primary
cause of the former trouble sprang to their feet and came toward him.

"Huh! what brings yo' heah?" demanded the ringleader of the
mischief-makers wrathfully.

For the instant Matt hardly knew how to reply. He recognized his
mistake in coming to the cottage, and he was anxious now to make as
early a departure as possible.

"Do you live here?" he asked boldly.

"Yes we do," returned the colored man.

"Then I have made a mistake in coming here. I thought some one else
might live here."

And he took a step backward to the door.

"Hol' on!" exclaimed the colored man, coming still closer. "What brung
yo' heah?"

"I wanted to find out if we were on the right road, that was all. But
I can find out elsewhere."

"Whar's yo' wagon?"

"Over on the road," and Matt waved his hand in the direction.

"Gwine to leave Easton?" questioned the second colored man.

"Yes."

No sooner had Matt made the reply than the three colored men glanced
at each other, and the ringleader whispered to his companions.

"See yeah, yo' ain't gwine befo' we is squar' wid yo'!" he cried, as
he caught Matt by the arm.

"Let go of me!" exclaimed the young auctioneer. "I won't stand being
molested!"

"We'll see about dat!" cried the second colored man, and he also
caught hold of Matt.

"Close dat doah, Shelby!" went on the ringleader, to the man still at
the table. "Dis is just de chance we wanted at dis yeah boy!"

The man addressed at once arose, and rushing to the somewhat rickety
door, not only closed it, but also locked it.

Matt viewed this movement with increased alarm, and squirmed to
release himself, but without avail.

"Yo' can't git away from us, nohow!" cried the ringleader, as he
squeezed the young auctioneer's arm until Matt thought he would crack
a bone. "We is gwine for to teach you a lesson, boy, dat yo' won't
forgit in a long while!"

"Help! help!" yelled Matt, without more ado, realizing that the
situation was becoming suddenly desperate.

He had barely time to repeat his cry when the ringleader of the
negroes clapped his big hand over his mouth. Then he was forced over
backward upon the floor.

"Go frough his pockets, Jeff!"

"Dat's wot I intends to do, Tooker!"

"He's got a putty good watch."

"Maybe he's got a lot o' money, too."

The rascals began to go through Matt's pockets, and he called Jeff
made a movement toward relieving the boy of his watch and chain.

The timepiece had once belonged to Mr. Lincoln, and to the young
auctioneer it was a valuable heirloom. The thought that he was to be
deprived of it angered him more than did anything else, and he began
to kick out hotly right and left.

The negroes were not prepared for this, and before they could guard
against it, one received a severe blow in the chin, and the other had
the toe of Matt's shoe nearly knock out his eye. They both gave sharp
cries of pain and fell back, and taking advantage of this Matt leaped
to his feet.

"Open that!" he commanded, to the third negro, who stood with his back
against the door. "Open that before I make it warm for you also!"

But the colored man would not budge, and Matt was compelled to attack
him in his fight for freedom.

The young auctioneer was thoroughly aroused, and now showed what
muscle he had gained during his free-and-easy life on the road. He
attacked the man without hesitation, and forcing him aside, compelled
him to keep away from the door by blows and kicks delivered with
surprising rapidity.

The man had, at the last moment, taken the key from the lock and
thrown it in the far corner of the room. Not waiting to recover this,
Matt began to hammer at the door, and gathering himself together,
threw his whole weight against it.

As has been said, the door was a rickety one, and it went down with a
crash, tumbling the young auctioneer upon his face just outside the
cottage.

"Hullo! what on earth does this mean?" cried a voice close by, and
Andy rushed up, a look of blank astonishment plainly depicted upon his
face.

"Those negroes!" gasped Matt, struggling to rise from amid the
wreckage of the door. "Come on, don't wait, for they are three to two,
and they are just drunk enough to be as ugly as sin!"

He caught Andy by the arm, and before the latter could ask for a
further explanation, hurried him up the hill toward the wagon.

The negroes came out of the cottage and made after them, but only for
a short distance. Then they came to a sudden halt, and after a brief
consultation, hurried back to the cottage.

"What do you suppose they went back for--pistols and razors?"
questioned Andy, as they reached the turn-out, and he unhitched Billy
from the tree to which he had been tied.

"No, they are afraid we are going after the police," returned Matt,
springing up to the seat. "Every one of that crowd ought to be in jail
this minute!" he went on bitterly.

"What did they do to you?"

"Nearly robbed me!" And in a few brief words he related what had
happened to him.

"Well, do you want to go back to Easton and make a complaint?" asked
Andy, when he had finished.

"No, I am sick of having to do with the police, Andy. All I want is to
be let alone."

"That's my sentiment, Matt. We are out for business--and money--not
trouble."

Andy sprang up beside Matt, and it was soon decided by the partners to
continue on the road until another house should appear. They looked
back, but saw nothing more of the negroes, and then started off.

They passed through a bit of woods and down a long hill. Here they
found a neat farmhouse, where a pleasant enough woman was sitting upon
the doorstep, knitting socks.

"This is one road, but it is not the best road," replied the woman, in
reply to Andy's question regarding the way to Bethlehem. "But now you
are this far, you had better keep on, for it will be harder to turn
back."

"How far is it to the town?"

"Not over a mile and a half."

"And is the road fairly good from here?"

"Oh, yes; you can get along very well."

"Then we will continue," returned Andy. "By the way," he went on, "do
you know anything of the negroes that live in the cottage back a
ways?"

The woman's face lost its smile and she sighed.

"Yes, I know them only too well," she replied. "They have stolen so
many of our chickens and so much garden truck that my husband is going
to make a complaint against them. I wish they would leave the
neighborhood."

"I trust your husband succeeds in having them all locked up," put in
Matt, "for they richly deserve it." And after a few words more with
the farmer's wife they passed on.

It was getting on toward noon when they finally arrived at Bethlehem,
that pretty little town on the Lehigh River. They drove past several
of the silk mills, and finally found a livery stable, at which Billy
and the wagon were put up.

"It looks as if we might do some business here," said Andy, as they
started for a restaurant for dinner. "Let us open up this afternoon if
possible."

"Shall we hire a store?"

"Let us try to sell from the wagon first."

Immediately after dinner they procured a license and found a suitable
corner. They did all in their power to attract a crowd, and finally,
toward evening, when the working people were on their way home,
succeeded in bringing quite an assemblage around them.

But, strange to say, they could not make a single sale, try their
best. Both used up all their eloquence; Matt played on the banjo and
mouth harmonica, and Andy told funny stories. It was no use; the crowd
merely smiled or frowned, and then one after another drifted away.

"This is the worst luck yet," whispered Andy to Matt. "I never dreamed
that we would strike anything like this."

A stout German who stood in the crowd saw the look of wonder and
disappointment on Andy's face, and he laughed heartily.

"You ton't vos caught der same pirds twice alretty!" he chuckled to
several bystanders.

"What's that?" questioned Matt, who overheard the remark.

"You ton't vos caught der same pirds twice mit der same salt,"
returned the German, and he laughed heartily at what he considered a
good joke, while those around smiled and nodded approvingly.

"I must say I don't see the joke," said Matt cheerfully. "Won't you
let me in the secret?"

"Dose udder fellers vos schwindle us, put you can't do it twice
times!" was the reply.

"Other fellows swindled you?" repeated Matt.

"Yes, dose fellers mit dot wagon vot vas here all last week. I don't
dink but vot you vos der same crowd of fellers!"



CHAPTER XXXI.

DANGEROUS MOUNTAIN TRAVELING.


Both Matt and Andy began to smell a mouse, as the saying is, and they
lost no time in questioning not only the German, but several other
people that remained around the wagon.

The young auctioneers soon learned that a rival party of auctioneers
with a large two-horse wagon had stopped at the town during the entire
previous week, and sold goods which were next to worthless, for the
highest prices to be obtained. They had been cool and shrewd men,
thoroughly dishonest, and they had swindled every one who had had
dealings with them.

"And where did they go to?" asked Andy, of the German, after the
matter had been talked over for some time.

"Ve ton't know. Of ve did ve vould tar an' fedder dem, py chiminy!"
was the emphatic reply.

"That settles it, we won't be able to do any business here," said
Matt, and though they remained in Bethlehem the remainder of that day
and all of the next, his words proved true. Only a few trifles were
sold, and these at prices that did not reimburse them for the trouble
of handling.

Seeing that it would not pay to remain in the town longer, they
started once more on the road, and by the end of the week found
themselves established in a store in Allentown, and doing quite a good
business.

While in this city Andy made a trip to Philadelphia, and had several
more cases of goods shipped on, which Matt was careful to procure
before they might be stolen from the freight depot. The wagon was also
sent to a repair shop and thoroughly overhauled, for the roads beyond
Allentown promised to be rougher than those heretofore traversed.

Both Matt and Andy were curious to know more about the rival
auctioneers, and they wondered if they would meet the men. Nothing had
been heard of them in Allentown, so that their business in that city
was not injured. They did fairly well, although a strike in some of
the mills made business duller than it would otherwise have been.

But both of the partners thought they had no cause for complaint.
During the time they had been away from home they had cleared, above
all expenses, one hundred and seventy-two dollars, which, equally
divided, was eighty-six dollars apiece--not a fortune, but still an
amount which Matt at least viewed with considerable satisfaction.

"If we do as well right straight through," he said, as he and Andy
talked it over on their way to Lehighton and Mauch Chunk, "we will
have quite an amount to place to our credit in the bank by the time we
reach New York again."

"I am in hopes that we will do even better as cold weather comes on,"
returned Andy. "Folks seem to buy more then--I don't know why. And
besides, after stopping at Mauch Chunk, we will only go to large
places, for I think it will pay to skip the smaller ones."

"I don't know but what you are right. I know one thing that I am going
to do when I get to Mauch Chunk--that is, if business continues
good."

"And what is that?"

"I am going to buy a post-office order and send Miss Bartlett the
money she so kindly loaned me. Won't she be surprised to get it back
so soon?"

"No doubt of it, Matt. It was very kind of her to loan it to you. I
suppose you are going to pay her the interest----"

"For the full year," finished the boy. "And at Christmas, if I can do
it, I'm going to make her some sort of a nice present. She is the
only friend I had left in New York."

"A very nice young lady," returned Andy, and then he went on, with a
short laugh: "I wonder what old Caleb Gulligan would say if he knew of
our prosperity?"

"And I wonder what Mr. Randolph Fenton would say if he knew how I was
doing? I hope when I write to Miss Bartlett that she lets him know,"
went on Matt. "I suppose he thought that after he discharged me I
would go to the dogs."

"Yes, men like him very often imagine the world cannot possibly get
along without them. I reckon you are glad that you are no longer in
his employ."

"Glad isn't a strong enough word, Andy. It makes me shudder to look
back at the times I spent in his offices, being bossed around and
scolded from morning to night."

"I think traveling around has done us both a deal of good, Matt. I
feel stronger than I have in years, and you look the picture of
health, barring those bruises you received from Barberry and his
companions."

"Oh, I feel fine! Outdoor life always did agree with me. When I was in
Fenton's offices I felt very much like a prisoner in a jail. I
wouldn't go back to that life again for the world!"

Thus the talk ran on, from one subject to another. Andy had given his
young partner the full particulars of his own roving life, and in
return Matt had related everything concerning himself, and the two
felt as if they had known each other for years; in fact, as Matt once
stated later on, they were more like brothers than mere partners in
business.

Andy was deeply interested in the fact of Mr. Lincoln's disappearance,
and he wondered nearly as much as did Matt himself if the unfortunate
man would ever turn up again.

As for the boy, he could not bring himself to believe that his parent
was dead, and although he rarely mentioned his father's name, he was
constantly on the watch for him, and often when they were stopping at
a place he would go off on what he termed a "still hunt," hoping
thereby to pick up a stray bit of information which would put him on
the right track to learn of his father's whereabouts.

The drive up through Walnut Port to Lehigh Gap was very nice. At the
latter place they stopped over night, and then pushed on to Lehighton,
sometimes along the river, and then by way of a road through and
around the mountains.

"This scenery is just grand!" cried Matt, as they were driving on
about ten o'clock in the forenoon. "Just look at that mountain over
yonder! And see how the river winds along through the valley below
here!"

"It is very fine, indeed!" returned Andy. "But I'll tell you what: I
would rather be on horseback than in the wagon. It seems to me that
some of the bends around the mountain side are positively dangerous."

"Oh, I guess not, Andy. Why, look, there is a regular wagon road. If
other wagons can pass along here, I fancy we can do so, too."

"Other wagons may not be as heavy as ours, with that big case tied on
behind. Don't you notice how Billy slips every once in awhile?"

"Well, we might have had him shod sharp when we had the wagon
overhauled," returned Matt slowly, as he noticed for the first time
that Billy did slip more than usual. "We can have it done during our
stop at Mauch Chunk or at Lehighton, if it becomes necessary. Maybe we
are on the wrong road again."

"Well, certainly this road is growing worse instead of better," said
Andy soberly. "Just look at that turn ahead! The road isn't over ten
feet wide, and it slopes down to that steep hill----"

"Drive as close to the inside wall as you can," was Matt's somewhat
nervous reply, as he saw the possible danger ahead. "Steady now,
Billy, steady!"

The horse moved along slowly up to the curve which ran around the
mountain side. As Andy had said, the road at this point was scarcely
ten feet wide, and on the other side was a steep downward slope,
terminating below at a tiny brook filled with loose rocks.

The curve was reached, and the two were just congratulating themselves
upon having passed the dangerous spot in safety, when a large bird,
flying from a near-by bush, frightened Billy and caused him to shy to
one side.

In another instant the wagon was at the very edge of the slope!



CHAPTER XXXII.

AN INTERESTING LETTER.


To Andy and Matt it looked as if the entire turn-out must slide down
the hillside to the bottom, there to be smashed into a hundred
pieces.

It was small wonder, therefore, that both gave a loud cry of alarm and
that both caught at the lines to lead Billy away from the danger so
imminent.

The horse continued to move ahead, but instead of drawing closer to
the inside, he walked upon the very outer edge of the road.

"I'll lead him!" cried Andy, and while Matt continued to hold the
lines, he sprang out and caught Billy by the bridle.

Ordinarily, the faithful animal would have come along willingly, but
he now seemed to grow obstinate, and pulled back when Andy caught
hold. The wagon stopped, and then the rear wheels were sent partly
down the slope.

"Pull him up!" cried Matt. "Pull him, Andy!"

"He won't come!" gasped Andy, tugging at the bridle with might and
main.

"But he must come! The wagon will go down in another second!"

"I can't help it, I can't make him come," panted Andy, between his
clinched teeth, as he renewed the struggle to bring the wagon up on
the level once more.

Tying the lines fast, Matt sprang out. He had seen a loose stone of
fair size close at hand, and this he now picked up. Running around to
the rear of the wagon, he placed it on the sloping ground so that one
of the wheels was blocked from further slipping.

"Good!" cried Andy. "Can you find another stone?"

"I'm going to push on the other wheel. Get up, Billy, get up there!"

Matt placed his shoulder to the wheel, and exerted all of his
strength, and seeing this, Andy also urged the horse. Billy gave a
tug--there was a moment's strain--and then the turn-out rolled up once
more upon the level road.

"Thank goodness for that!" burst out Andy. "I thought for a moment
that it was a goner!"

"So did I, Andy. You had better lead him until we reach a safer bit of
the road."

"I intend to do that. And after this I'll know enough to lead him
around such a bend, instead of taking such a dangerous chance."

Only a hundred feet further on the mountain road left the proximity of
the slope, and then the two once more climbed up on the seat. Billy,
the horse, did not appear to be in the least disturbed over the
adventure, but Matt and Andy were bathed in a cold perspiration which
did not leave them until some time after.

At Lehighton, where they stopped for dinner, they determined to drive
right through to Mauch Chunk, four miles further on. Many people from
the former place did their trading at Mauch Chunk, and the young
auctioneers thought they would catch just as much trade by not
stopping on the way.

At Mauch Chunk a stop was made for three days, and during that time
there were several excursions to the place from New York and
Philadelphia, the city folks coming up to see the autumnal beauties of
Glen Onoko and the various mountains through which the Switchback
gravity road runs. These crowds helped business some, and the stay
proved nearly as profitable as the one at Easton had been.

On the first day at Mauch Chunk Matt procured the money order of which
he had spoken, and sent it to Ida Bartlett, with a long letter, in
which he thanked her for her kindness, and gave her an account of the
trip since leaving the metropolis. He stated that if she wished to
write to him within the week to address the letter to Wilkesbarre, or,
on the following week to Scranton, as they were bound for both
places.

During their spare hours both Andy and Matt took the ride on the
gravity road and enjoyed it very much. The rhododendrons were out in
full bloom, and Matt wished he could send Ida Bartlett a bunch of the
beautiful flowers.

They were soon once again on the road. But Billy's shoes had been
carefully attended to, and now they were very careful whenever they
came to a spot that looked at all dangerous.

"One scare is enough," was the way Andy put it, and Matt thoroughly
agreed with him.

After leaving Mauch Chunk they passed through Penn Haven and Leslie
Run, and so on to White Haven. At the latter place they stopped for
two days, but found it very unprofitable, as there was little or no
money afloat.

"Well, we have to take the bad with the good," said Andy, in reply to
Matt's remark concerning the dullness of trade. "We cannot expect to
make money wherever we go. If that was to be done, I reckon there
would be many other auctioneers in the field."

"That reminds me: I wonder what has become of those auctioneers we
heard of in Bethlehem?"

"I'm sure I don't know. But it is likely that we will hear from them
again, sooner or later."

On leaving White Haven for Wilkesbarre, they struck the first
snow-storm of the season. It was not a heavy storm, and yet, as the
wind blew in their faces, the drive of thirty miles proved anything
but pleasant. They were glad enough when the city was reached, and
they were able to put up the turn-out at a livery stable and warm up
around the office stove.

"We won't be able to travel much longer, if this keeps on," remarked
Andy. "We'll have to pick out some place to settle down in for the
winter."

"Have you any place in view?" asked Matt, with interest.

"I've had my eye on Middletown, New York State. That's a lively place,
and it gets a trade from a good many miles around."

"Do you think we can make it?"

"I think so. We can go from Scranton to Carbondale, and Honesdale, and
so on through Lackawaxen and Port Jervis. By taking that route we can
stop on the way and still reach Middletown inside of two weeks."

"Well, I shouldn't like to miss a letter from Miss Bartlett, if it was
sent."

"You can leave directions to forward it if it comes after we are gone.
The post-office authorities will willingly send the letter wherever
you direct."

"Perhaps she has already written."

"If you think so, why don't you call at the post-office and find
out?"

"I will--as soon as we have had something to eat and drink."

They passed over to the Commercial Hotel, and after brushing up,
entered the dining-room. Here a late dinner was served for them, and
it is needless to say that both did full justice to all that was set
before them.

After they had finished Andy went off to hunt up an empty store, and
Matt, after securing directions, walked off to the post-office.

To his delight, there was a letter for him, and addressed in Ida
Bartlett's hand. As it was the first letter he had received since
being on the road, the reader can understand his curiosity to master
its contents. Standing back in an out-of-the-way spot of the corridor,
he split open the envelope with his penknife, and was soon reading
that which had been written.

The letter surprised him not a little. After acknowledging the receipt
of the money order and congratulating him upon his evident success,
Ida Bartlett wrote as follows:

  "And now, Matt, I am going to tell you something that I think will
  interest you even more than it does me. It is about Mr. Fenton and
  the mining shares which he once sold your father. Last week Mr.
  Gaston, the bookkeeper, had a quarrel with Mr. Fenton, and was
  discharged. Before he left, however, he and Mr. Fenton had some
  high words, which I, being in the next office, could not help
  hearing.

  "During this quarrel something was said about the shares sold to
  William Lincoln, and Mr. Gaston said that if the papers in
  connection with the shares which your father had bought could be
  recovered, he would expose Mr. Fenton. I could not understand the
  whole drift of the matter, but Mr. Fenton seemed to be glad that
  your father was missing--he said he was most likely dead--and that
  the papers had disappeared with him.

  "Do you know anything of the papers? Mr. Gaston has gone to
  Boston, but I could write to him if you think that Mr. Fenton is a
  swindler and that you can get back any money which he may have
  defrauded your father out of. I myself am going to leave Mr.
  Fenton's employ on the first of next month, having secured a
  better place with another firm of brokers. Let me hear from you
  again as soon as possible. I hope if he has any money belonging to
  your father you can get it."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE RIVAL AUCTIONEERS.


It may well be imagined that Matt read Ida Bartlett's letter
with great interest. The young auctioneer had never received a
communication as surprising as was this one.

He went over every word carefully several times, then placed the
letter in his pocket, and started off to find Andy.

Half an hour later he came across his partner on the main street. Andy
had just rented a store, one of two vacant ones which were side by
side, and was now on his way to drive the wagon around and unload the
stock.

"Well, did you get a letter, Matt?"

"I did."

"Good enough. Any special news?"

"Yes, indeed. Just read that."

And the young auctioneer passed the communication over for his
partner's perusal.

Andy read the letter as carefully as had Matt. He emitted a long, low
whistle.

"What do you think of it?"

"I hardly know what to think, Matt. Do you know anything about this
mining share business?"

"I know that Randolph Fenton sold my father some shares, that is all.
I never saw the certificates, if that is what they are called."

"Did you ever see the papers in connection with the shares?"

"No."

"Then they must have been in your father's possession when he
disappeared."

"I don't know about that. Mother might have had them when father was
first sent to the asylum for treatment. Although I remember hearing
her once say that since father's mind had become affected he would not
trust any one with his affairs, but kept all his money and papers
hidden away."

"It's too bad you haven't the papers."

"That's so. If I had them I would hunt up Mr. Gaston, and get him to
expose Randolph Fenton."

"It might pay you to do that anyway."

"I don't know. If there was any likelihood of this being the case, I
think Miss Bartlett would have written to that effect."

"What do you intend to do?"

"I am going to write to her again, telling her just how matters stand
with me, and ask her if she thinks it will do any good for me to come
on. If she thinks it will, I'll try to manage it some way to take a
run to New York."

"You can do that whenever you wish, Matt. I will take care of things
the same as you did when I was gone."

On the way to the stable where the wagon and Billy were located they
talked the matter over at a greater length. Andy took a warm personal
interest in the matter, and did not hesitate to say so.

"If this Fenton swindled your father, I trust you are able to prove it
and get your money back," he said. "I don't know of any one that
deserves money more than you do."

The wagon was soon driven around to the store, and the goods unloaded.
Then the show-window and the shelves were arranged to attract the eye,
after which Andy hung out the red flag, which now began to look to the
young auctioneers like an old friend.

As soon as everything was in shape for business Matt brought out
paper, pen and ink, and set to work upon the letter to Ida Bartlett.
At first he hardly knew how to express himself, but before he had
finished he had filled eight pages, and told the young lady exactly
how matters stood. He begged for her further assistance, and assured
her that she should not lose through her kindness to him.

The letter finished, Matt did not place it in a letter-box, but
marched with it to the post-office, that it might be included with the
first out-going New York mail.

"If I only could find father," he sighed to himself as he turned back
to the store. "Something in my heart tells me that he is not dead, and
yet, if this is so, where can he be?"

On arriving at the store he found Andy already busy with a crowd which
had begun to collect the moment that the red flag was hung out. Matt
had to begin work at once, and this was a good thing for the boy, for
it kept him from brooding over his parent's possible fate and thus
growing melancholy.

"If I am any kind of a judge, we are going to do the best business yet
at this city," said Andy, as there came a little lull in trade. "It
started off briskly, and it has kept on steadily ever since."

"Well, that just suits me," laughed Matt. "To my way of thinking we
cannot do too much business."

During the next day Matt noticed two sharp-eyed men hanging around the
place a good deal. At first he paid no attention to them, but at last
pointed them out to Andy.

"Yes, I noticed them myself," returned the senior partner. "They do
not look as if they wanted to buy, but just as if they were spying."

"Supposing I call them in and ask them to buy?" suggested Matt, for
both of the men were at that moment gazing in the window at the
articles displayed there.

"Certainly, you can do that if you want to," returned Andy.

So Matt walked from behind the counter toward the door, but before he
could reach it one of the men saw him and spoke to his companion, and
both hurried up the street and around the nearest corner.

"Humph! that's queer, to say the least," said the young auctioneer,
and Andy agreed with him.

There had been a "To Let" bill upon the show-window of the vacant
store next door, but on the following morning when the young
auctioneers opened up they found the bill gone. The door of the store
was open, and inside a boy somewhat younger than Matt was cleaning
up.

"Hullo!" cried Matt, stopping short. Then he poked his head in at the
door and confronted the boy.

"So we are going to have neighbors, eh?" he remarked pleasantly.

"Bet your life!" was the slangy reply from the boy, as soon as he had
noted who had addressed him. "You didn't expect us, did you?"

"No, I didn't know the store was taken until a moment ago," said
Matt.

"Well, it can't be helped. It was the only store vacant in the
neighborhood."

"Can't be helped?" repeated Matt, somewhat puzzled. "What do you
mean?"

"Oh, I thought you might object to our opening up alongside of you."

"I don't see why I should. What business are you in?"

"Same line."

Matt was taken aback somewhat by this unexpected reply, and his face
showed it.

"Do you mean to say you are going to open an auction store here?"

"That's it, and we are going to make it everlastingly warm for you
fellows, too," went on the boy triumphantly. "We've been a-watching
how you run things, and we are going to scoop every bit of trade when
we get started."

Matt drew a long breath. Here was certainly a new experience. He and
Andy had expected to encounter rivals, but had never dreamed of
having them at such close quarters.

"Well, I suppose we will have to stand it," he said, hardly knowing
how else to reply to the boy's bragging statement.

"If I was you I'd pack up and try some other place," went on the boy.
"Gissem & Fillow will take every bit of trade--they always do wherever
they go."

"Gissem & Fillow? Are those the names of the men who run the
concern?"

"Yes, and they are the slickest auctioneers in the country."

"Perhaps you only think so."

"Oh, I know it. I'll bet you a new hat you don't take in a dollar
after we get a-going."

"Thank you, but I don't bet. May I ask where you came from?"

"We came from Stroudsburg."

"Were you down in Bethlehem before that?"

"Yes. How did you know that?"

"We came through there after you had gone."

"Bet you didn't sell anything. We squeezed the town dry."

"We didn't sell much," returned Matt. He was on the point of stating
that he had heard how the folks had been swindled, but he changed his
mind. "How long do you expect to remain here?"

"Oh, a week or so. You might as well pack up and leave."

"I guess we will venture to remain, at least a day or two longer,"
said Matt. "Perhaps we'll be able to do a little in spite of you."

At that moment a large wagon began to back up to the curb. The seat
was occupied by two men, and Matt at once recognized them as the
fellows he had caught hanging around the previous day. They were the
rival auctioneers, who had been watching to learn how Matt and Andy
conducted their business.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

MATT SPEAKS HIS MIND.


Matt did not wait to encounter the rival auctioneers, but walked away
and entered the door of his own store. Andy was busy, dusting up, and
to his partner he told what he had heard.

"Phew!" whistled Andy. "That will make matters rather interesting. Is
that their wagon out there?"

"I suppose it is. Those are the same two men, I am certain."

"Yes, they are. Well, if they are the swindlers folks in Bethlehem
said they were we ought not to fear them. People are not fools, and
they soon learn if a man is honest or not."

"They may take away a good bit of trade, nevertheless, Andy. And we
were just congratulating ourselves on what a fine week we were going
to have."

"We must do our best, Matt. This puts me on my mettle."

They talked the matter over a bit, and then set to work to "put their
best foot forward," as Andy termed it. The window was cleaned as it
had never been cleaned before, and also the show-cases and shelves,
and then they proceeded to make the most elaborate display possible.

"There; that ought to attract people, if anything will," remarked
Andy, when the work was finished.

"You are right; the window couldn't look better. But perhaps they will
put out big price signs."

"Never mind, they can't afford to sell any cheaper than we can. I
bought all the goods at bottom figures. Let us start up before they
get ready."

They began to play on several instruments, and as soon as half a dozen
people were collected Andy began to talk and tell jokes. Before the
rival auctioneers had their stock inside of their store Matt and Andy
were doing a pretty fair business.

Seeing this, Gissem & Fillow hurried up their preparations, and by
noon both places were "going it for all they were worth," as Matt
expressed it.

Gissem seemed to be the principal member of the firm, Fillow and the
boy being merely helpers. He was a tall, thin-faced and clean-shaven
man, with hard, steely-blue eyes.

"This way for bargains!" he cried out, coming out upon the sidewalk.
"This way, gents and ladies! The only place in Wilkesbarre selling
reliable goods at rock-bottom figures! Don't be deceived by rival
concerns trying to obtain a bit of our well-earned prosperity! Come
right in and be convinced!" And he kept on in this strain for fully
five minutes.

"Well, that is what I call downright mean," cried Matt to Andy. "Of
course all these cracks at rival concerns are meant for us. He wants
to draw the crowd away from us."

"More than that, he is trying to scare them, so that if they won't
patronize him they won't purchase anywhere," returned the senior
partner. "It is certainly not a fair way to do."

"Can't we stop, him, Andy?"

"I don't see how. He has mentioned no names."

Andy began to talk, but as he was inside of the store while Gissem was
outside, very few of the people on the street were attracted. They
made several sales to those inside, but after the purchasers were gone
the store was empty. In the meantime, the next place was filled to
overflowing.

"Let us give them a tune," suggested Matt. "I see our rivals have no
musical instruments."

He brought out a banjo, and Andy took up the largest accordion in the
place. Sitting down in a spot from which the music could float out of
the door, they played several of their best selections.

The music pleased many people. They stopped listening to Gissem, and
after some hesitation several came in. More followed, and seeing this,
Matt and Andy kept on until the store was once more filled.

Then Matt began to talk. He made no wild statements, but in an earnest
manner told what they had to sell, and asked those around him to
examine the goods carefully.

"That fellow next door said to beware of rival concerns," remarked a
man in the crowd slyly, and several smiled at the words.

"Well, I take it that people are bright enough to know what they are
doing," returned Matt. "We are too busy to talk about our neighbors.
We are here to show what we have and sell goods--if we can. We do not
misrepresent, and if any one is dissatisfied with his purchase he can
return it and get his money back. Isn't that fair enough?"

"I reckon it is."

"We carry a large stock, as you can see, and we sell everything for
what it is."

"Let me see those spoons, will you?" questioned a man standing beside
the one talking to Matt.

"Certainly, sir," and the young auctioneer handed over several
samples.

"Are these triple plated?"

"No, sir; they are single plated, on white metal."

"Then they are just as good as triple plated?"

"Almost as good, for ordinary wear. Here are some that are triple
plated."

"I know they are."

"Oh, you do."

"Yes, I know all about spoons, for I used to be in the plating
business. I only asked to see what you would say. That man next door
tried to sell my friend some single plated ones for triple plated. I
brought him in here to see what you had to say about your stock."

"Well, I have not misrepresented, have I?"

"No; you have told the exact truth. John, if you want any spoons, you
might as well buy them here, for I see they are put at a very
reasonable figure."

Upon this, the man who had first spoken began to pick out some of the
goods. What his friend had said had been heard by the crowd, who now
began to feel more like trusting in what the young auctioneers might
have to say.

Matt sold the spoons, and in the meantime Andy put up a number of
other articles at auction, and sold them at fairly good prices.

They managed to keep busy until two o'clock in the afternoon, when
trade fell off once more. Seeing this, Andy prepared to go out to
dinner. He had just put on his hat when Gissem, the rival auctioneer,
rushed in.

"See here, I want to talk to you two fellows!" he blustered.

"Well, what is it?" questioned Matt, as coolly as he could.

"You've been telling people I tried to stick a man on a lot of
tin-plated spoons, saying they were solid silver."

"Who said so?"

"Never mind who said so. Let me tell you I ain't going to stand such
work."

"Excuse me, sir, but we circulated no such story," interrupted Andy.
"We know enough to mind our own business."

"But they told me one or the other of you had said so. We won't stand
that--we'll have you arrested for--for defamation of character!"
stormed the rival auctioneer, working himself up into a fine pitch of
assumed indignation.

"We have said nothing concerning you," said Matt. "We have not even
advised people to beware of our rivals, nor have we mentioned your
stop in Bethlehem, and how the folks of that town regarded your
doings there," he went on pointedly.

"What--what do you mean?" stammered Gissem, taken by surprise.

"I mean just what I infer. We know how people there were swindled, and
we know how anxious some of them are to lay hands on a certain firm of
auctioneers."

"Have a care, boy, or I'll--I'll----"

"What will you do?"

"Never mind; you'll see fast enough."

"You cannot bully me. Now that you have taken the trouble to come in
here, let me tell you something. You just cast several reflections
upon our characters. That has got to be stopped."

"Humph! Why, you are but a boy and dare talk to me."

"Never mind, he knows what he is saying," put in Andy. "We are not to
be mistreated by rivals or by any one else."

"Don't talk to me!" snapped Gissem, and unable to keep up the talk
with credit to himself, he fled from the store.

"I don't think he will dare to bother us again," said Andy. "He is too
much afraid to have his past record raked up."

Andy went off to dinner, leaving Matt in sole charge. The snow had
cleared away, but it was still cold, and to keep himself warm, Matt
went to the rear of the establishment and got his overcoat. He was
just putting on the garment when a noise near the show-window
attracted his attention. He ran forward, and saw that a thin stream of
water was coming down through the boards of the ceiling. The water was
splashing on some of the stock, and unless it was speedily checked it
would do a good bit of damage.

Matt knew that the upper part of the building was not occupied. In the
rear of the store was a door leading to the back hallway, and through
this he ran and started to go upstairs.

As he did so, somebody started to come down. It was the boy who worked
for the rival auctioneers.



CHAPTER XXXV.

TOM INWOLD.


As soon as the boy saw Matt he stopped short, and then endeavored to
retreat. But Matt was coming up the steps in a tremendous hurry, and
in ten seconds he was close enough to the boy to catch him by the
arm.

"Let go of me!" cried the boy, badly frightened.

"What have you done?" questioned Matt sternly, and without waiting for
a reply, forced the boy to accompany him into the rooms.

A glance around revealed the cause of the flood below. In one of the
rooms was a sink with city water. The water had been turned on full,
and the sink-holes stopped up with putty. The sink had overflowed, and
the water was running through several cracks in the floor.

As rapidly as he could Matt turned off the faucet. Then leaving the
water still in the sink to the brim, he dashed downstairs.

"You come with me and help me save my stock!" he cried to the boy.
"If you don't I'll hand you over to the first policeman I can find."

"Oh, please don't have me arrested!" howled the boy, almost scared out
of his wits by the threat. "I--I--didn't mean any harm!"

"You didn't mean any harm? We'll see. Come down now."

The boy hesitated, and then followed Matt into the store. Here a
portion of the stock had to be removed, and then the young auctioneer
set the boy to work mopping up the water on the counter and the
floor.

"Say, please don't have me arrested, will you?" asked the boy, almost
in tears over what he considered a very serious predicament.

"You ought to be taught a lesson," returned Matt severely. "What put
you up to the idea of letting the water overflow?"

"What Mr. Gissem said. He was awful mad after he was in here, and he
told Mr. Fillow he wished that you would burn out or that the water
pipes would burst and drown you out. Then he asked me if I couldn't
worry you a bit, and I said I'd try, and that's the truth of it."

"Well, that man ought to be cowhided!" was Matt's vigorous exclamation.
"Excuse me, but is he any relation to you?"

"Oh, no."

"Is Mr. Fillow?"

"No, neither of them."

"Then how do you come to be traveling with them?"

The boy's face took on a sober look, and he swallowed something like a
lump in his throat.

"I--I got tired of going to school and I ran away from home."

"What do you mean--" Matt stopped short as a certain thought flashed
over his mind. "Say, is your name Tom Inwold, and do you come from
Plainfield?"

At this unexpected question the boy looked at Matt in amazement, his
mouth wide open, and his eyes as big as they could well be.

"Who told you who I was?" he gasped.

"No one; I guessed it."

"But I don't know you."

"That's true. We stopped in Plainfield a number of weeks ago, and
there I met your mother."

"And what did she say?" faltered Tom Inwold.

"She told me that you had run away with an auctioneer."

"And--and was that all?" went on the boy, his voice trembling with
emotion.

"No; she was very anxious to have you come home again. She missed you
very much, and she could not understand how you could have the heart
to leave her."

At these words, which Matt delivered very seriously, the tears sprang
into Tom Inwold's eyes. Evidently he was not hard-hearted, and had
been led astray purely by bad associates.

"I--I wish I was back home again," he said in a low voice.

"You do not like being an auctioneer's helper, then?"

"No, I don't. I might like you, but Gissem and Fillow treat me
awful."

"In what way?"

"Well, in the first place they don't half feed me, and then they don't
pay me the wages they promised."

"What did they promise you?"

"Five dollars a week to start on, and ten dollars when I was worth it.
I've been with them a long time, but I was never able to get a cent
out of them."

"Supposing you had the money, would you go home?" asked Matt kindly,
for he saw that the boy's better feelings had been touched.

"I don't know if I would dare. Ma might whip me and have me sent to
the reform school, or something like that."

"I don't think she would--not if you promise to turn over a new leaf.
I should think you would rather go home than remain where you have to
work for nothing."

"I guess I would go home if I had a railroad ticket and some clothes
fit to wear. You can see how this suit looks," and Tom Inwold showed
up his ragged elbows and patched trousers.

"I'll see if I can do something for you," said Matt.

When Andy came back he told his partner Tom Inwold's story. To this
the boy himself added the tale of his hardships while with the rival
auctioneers, and added that he was very sorry he had endeavored to do
any injury to the stock in the store.

"I believe he means it," said Matt, as he and Andy walked a little to
one side. "And I would like to do something for the lad, for his
mother's sake as much as his own."

"I think I can fix it," replied Andy. "I'll have a talk with this
Gissem."

"He ought to pay the boy something for his work."

"I reckon he will--when I tell him that he is liable to arrest for
enticing the boy from home."

Andy told Tom Inwold to accompany him to the store next door. At first
the boy hung back, but when Andy promised that he would take the
responsibility of the coming interview entirely upon his own
shoulders, the lad consented to go along.

They were gone nearly an hour, and during that time Matt heard some
pretty loud talking through the partition which separated the two
stores. But when Andy and Tom Inwold came back he saw by their faces
that they had triumphed.

"At first Gissem was in for facing me down," said Andy. "Said he had
nothing to do with the boy, and all that. But I threatened him with
immediate arrest, and promised to have the mother of the boy here to
testify against him, and then he weakened, and at length gave Tom
thirty dollars, with which to buy a new suit of clothes, a pair of
shoes, a hat, and a railroad ticket, upon conditions that he would not
be prosecuted. I reckon he was badly scared, too."

Matt was much pleased. Leaving Andy in charge of the store, he went
out to dinner, taking Tom Inwold along with him. After the meal the
wearing apparel was purchased and donned, and then they made their way
to the depot. Here a ticket for Plainfield was procured, and the
young auctioneer saw to it that the boy boarded the proper train.

"I'll never forget you, never," said Tom Inwold on parting, and he
never has, nor has Mrs. Inwold, who was grateful to the last degree
for what Matt had been instrumental in doing for her.

On the following morning, on going down to the store to open up, Andy
and Matt saw that the entire stock of the store adjoining had been
removed during the night. Gissem had been fearful of trouble, despite
what Andy had promised, and had taken time by the forelock, and left
for parts unknown. The young auctioneers never met him or his partner
again.

By having the entire field to themselves the young auctioneers did a
splendid business, and when they were ready to pack up and start for
Scranton they found that they had cleared nearly ninety dollars by
their stay in Wilkes-Barre.

In the meantime the weather had been growing steadily colder, and they
found it necessary to invest in a second-hand robe to keep them warm
when driving.

"It looks a bit like snow," remarked Andy, as they drove out of the
city one morning. "I hope we don't catch it before we reach where we
are going to. A snowstorm in the mountains is not a very pleasant
thing to encounter."

"We must run our chances," returned Matt, and Billy was urged forward,
and soon the city outskirts were left far behind.

The sun had shone for awhile, but about nine o'clock it went under a
heavy cloud. Then it began to get slightly warmer, and Andy was
certain that snow was coming.

His prediction was fulfilled. By ten o'clock it was snowing furiously,
and by eleven the ground was covered to the depth of half a foot.

"That settles it; we can't make Scranton to-day, nor even Pittston,"
said Matt. "We had better hunt up some sort of a house with a barn
attached, where we can put up."

But Andy was for continuing the journey, so onward they went, until at
last, just before the noon hour, they found the road getting too heavy
for Billy. They went down into a hollow which the falling snow had
covered, and there the wagon remained, despite every effort to budge
it.

They looked around in some dismay. Not even a house nor a building of
any sort was in sight.

"This is a pretty pickle," muttered Andy. "I wish we had followed your
advice and sought shelter."

"We've got to do something," returned Matt. "If we stay here we'll be
completely snowed under. The snow is coming down thicker every minute.
What's to be done?"

Ah! what was to be done? That was a question not easy to answer. Both
of the young auctioneers were much disturbed.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

LOST IN THE SNOW.


It was not a pleasant outlook, stuck in a deep hollow on the road with
the snow coming down furiously. Already the ground was covered to the
depth of a foot or more, and around the heavily-laden wagon a drift
was forming which soon reached above the axles.

"We must do something, that's certain," muttered Matt, as he sprang to
Billy's head for at least the fifth time. "Come, old fellow, can't you
stir it up a bit?"

Andy ran to the back of the wagon and placed his shoulder against the
case there strapped on. But though the two and Billy, the horse, did
their best, the auction wagon remained where it was.

"It's no use," groaned Andy, as he stopped to catch his breath. "We
are stuck as hard as if we were planted here, and it looks as if we
would have to remain here for some time."

"We must move on," returned Matt desperately. "In a few hours night
will be coming on, and we'll be completely covered."

"The snow is coming down faster than ever, and the wind is rising.
Maybe we are going to have a blizzard. If we do, Heaven help us!"

"Let us take those cases of goods off," suggested the young auctioneer
after a moment of thought. "That will lighten the load for Billy
somewhat."

The big packing boxes were unstrapped and let down in the snow. They
were followed by every other article which could be removed from the
turn-out without damage.

Then Billy was once more urged to go on, Matt and Andy pushing with
all their strength in the meanwhile. The wheels of the wagon and the
axles creaked and then moved forward slowly.

"Hurrah! we've got it started!" shouted Matt joyfully. "Get up, Billy!
get up!"

And the horse really did strain every muscle until, two minutes later,
the wagon was out of the hollow and up on the ridge of a little hill.

"Thank fortune we are out of that!" exclaimed Andy. "Now what is to be
done?"

"We had better strap the cases in place again and continue on our
way."

"The cases are awfully heavy. I wonder if we can't hide them somewhere
and come back for them later? The snow is not melting, so that won't
hurt them."

The matter was talked over, and finally they decided to leave the two
cases, which had not been opened, and were well packed, under a big
tree near the roadside. The cases were removed to the spot without
delay, placed upon a couple of dead trees and covered with brush.

Then they moved on again, Andy leading the horse, and Matt going on
ahead to inspect the road, and thus avoid getting into another
hollow.

It was bitterly cold, and having nothing but a light overcoat on, the
young auctioneer was chilled to the bone. He was compelled to caper
about and clap his hands continually to keep from being frozen. The
snow, now fine and hard, beat into his face mercilessly, and to
protect himself from this he pulled his hat far down over his eyes,
and tied his handkerchief over his mouth and nose.

But the hardships of the storm were not to be endured for long. A
quarter of a mile further on they came to a large farmhouse, situated
some little distance back from the road. In the rear was a barn and a
cow-shed.

Running ahead, Matt knocked upon the door of the house. It was opened
by an elderly farmer, who was smoking, and who held a paper in his
hand.

"Good-afternoon," said the young auctioneer. "Can we get shelter
here for ourselves and our horse? We are willing to pay for the
accommodation."

"What's the matter? Caught on the road?" returned the farmer
pleasantly.

"Yes, sir," and Matt briefly narrated the particulars.

"Drive right around to the barn," were the farmer's welcome words.
"I'll open up for you and make your horse comfortable enough."

And reaching for his hat and coat, he put them on and came outside.

Andy was not slow to drive Billy into shelter. The barn was a large
one, and far from filled, and the wagon went in without difficulty.

As soon as the horse had been cared for, the young auctioneers
followed the farmer back to the house. The family had just finished
their dinner, but set to work at once to prepare food for the
half-frozen and exhausted travelers.

While Matt and Andy were warming up they told the farmer about the
cases which had been left on the road.

"I suppose they ought not to be left there too long," said Andy. "If
I had a light wagon and a pair of strong horses I would go after them
as soon as I've had something to eat."

"Don't you mind; I'll go after 'em for you," said the farmer. "I've
got Sam and Bess, and they can pull through most anything. Perhaps
after you've had dinner it will be too late."

"Well, if you get them we will pay you whatever it is worth," returned
Matt's partner.

The farmer set about the trip without delay, and just as Andy and Matt
were called to the dining-table he drove out of the yard.

The meal was a good one, there being plenty to eat and all of it well
served. To the two half-famished ones it seemed to be about the best
meal they had ever tasted.

After it was over they sat down by the fire and began to chat with the
farmer's wife, a motherly creature of the same age as her husband.
Every five minutes Matt would walk to the window to see if the farmer
was yet returning.

It was nearly an hour before Mr. Pearsall, for such was the farmer's
name, drove up to the door. Matt and Andy ran out to meet him, and
were relieved to learn that the cases of goods had been brought in
good condition. They were taken around to the barn and there
transferred to their original places on the auction wagon.

Mr. Pearsall was curious to know something of their business, and when
they were once more in the house the two young auctioneers told their
story, to which both the farmer and his wife listened with deep
interest.

As it continued to snow, Matt and Andy decided to remain at the
farmhouse over night, and arrangements were made to that effect. They
spent a pleasant evening, and all hands retired early.

In the morning, much to their joy, they found that the snow had
stopped coming down, and that the sun was shining brightly. They had
an early breakfast, and then, after settling with Mr. Pearsall, who
did not wish cash, but took goods his wife desired instead, they set
off for Pittston, which was scarcely half a mile distant.

Billy had had a good rest, and the city mentioned above was reached in
a short while. Here they arranged for an extra horse, that was hitched
up in front of their own. In this manner they started for Scranton
with more confidence.

The road was as rocky and uneven as before, but it being bright and
clear, they were enabled to avoid hollows with ease. They stopped at
Taylor for dinner, and arrived in Scranton an hour before nightfall,
tired out, but happy to think that their journey, for the balance of
the week at least, was over.

As soon as they had settled in a vacant store Matt left Andy in charge
and hurried to the post-office, to look for a letter from Ida
Bartlett. He was not disappointed; the letter was there, and he read
it with deep interest.

"Since receiving your letter," she wrote, "I have been watching Mr.
Fenton closely, and I am satisfied that he is much disturbed over the
fact that Mr. Gaston has left his employ and that he was threatened
with exposure. I have also taken the liberty to write to Mr. Gaston,
but have, as yet, received no reply. Will write again as soon as he
answers. It is a pity you cannot find out what became of your poor
father and the papers."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

MORE OF AUCTION LIFE.


"Yes, I would give every cent I am worth, and more, to learn what did
become of father," said Matt to Andy, after he had allowed his partner
to peruse the letter.

"I have no doubt you would, Matt," returned Andy feelingly. "I can
imagine how much it worries you--not knowing if he is dead or alive.
But you must keep a stout heart and trust to the future to clear up
the mystery."

"I'm trying to do that, but, Andy, it's hard work," and Matt's
handsome face took on an unusually sober look.

Knowing that nothing could be gained by discussing the matter, which
had been talked over a score of times previously, Andy changed the
subject. Business had opened very well, and he wished to go out and
have some circulars printed, by which even a larger crowd might be
attracted to the sale.

It remained clear for two days, and during that time both of the
young auctioneers were kept busy from eight o'clock in the morning
until eleven at night.

On the third day it began to grow warmer, and by noon it was raining
steadily.

"Well, never mind, the rain will wash the snow away, and if it only
stays clear afterward we will have a chance to get on to Carbondale,"
was Andy's cheerful comment.

Seeing that Matt could get along very well alone, he left the store in
the afternoon to buy a heavy overcoat at some clothing establishment.
If he procured what he wished, Matt was to buy one also.

Left to himself, the young auctioneer did what he could to attract
trade, but without success. He waited on the few customers who had
drifted in, but when they were gone found himself alone.

Rather than have the time hang heavily upon his hands he began to
clean up the stock. Cutlery and spoons need constant care to keep them
looking bright, and Matt was, therefore, never at a loss for
employment.

While he was hard at work shining up some silver-plated ware which was
slightly tarnished through handling, the door of the store was flung
open violently, and a large, heavily-built man staggered in. At a
glance Matt saw that the man was much the worse for the liquor he had
drunk.

"Say, is this an auction store?" grunted the man, as he tried to walk
up to the counter with some show of steadiness.

"It is," returned the young auctioneer briefly. Of all persons to deal
with he hated a drunken man the worst.

"It is, hey--a genuine auction store?" went on the tipsy individual.

"Yes. What can I do for you?" and Matt put the silverware he was
handling away.

"I want to buy a pistol."

Matt was surprised at this statement, and he was also alarmed. The
tipsy man was certainly not the person to have a firearm in his
possession.

"You wish a pistol?" he said slowly.

"That's me, boy! Hand out the best pistol you have in the place! I
don't want any toy pop-gun remember!"

And the man glared at Matt as though the boy were his one personal
enemy.

"Excuse me, but I hardly think I have a pistol to suit you," replied
the young auctioneer, thinking it best to discourage the man if
possible. "You had better go to a regular firearms store."

"I ain't a-going nowhere but here!" growled the would-be customer, as
he gave a lurch against the counter. "I want a pistol; best you got,
understand?"

"I understand, but I haven't any pistol for you," Matt replied
steadily. He wished Andy would come back.

"What! do you mean to say you refuse to sell me a pistol?" howled the
man savagely. "Let me tell you, boy, that I have ample means for
reimbursing you."

"I haven't any pistol for you, sir. You had better go elsewhere."

"Won't go, understand, I won't go! Let me see them pistols in that
show-case, and be quick about it!"

Matt was now growing alarmed. The man was just intoxicated enough to
be thoroughly ugly, and might try to do him harm should he refuse the
request which had been made. Yet he realized more than ever that the
man was not the one to be trusted with a firearm.

"I do not care to show you the pistols," was all the young auctioneer
could say. "You must go elsewhere if you wish one."

"Won't sell me one, hey?"

"No, I will not."

"Why?"

"I have my reasons."

"You're awfully smart, boy; most too smart to live! But I am going to
have what I want, understand that!"

With unsteady steps the man walked to the rear end of the counter and
came around to the inner side. He was met by Matt, who, becoming
alarmed, had picked up the butt-end of a fishing-rod with which to
defend himself.

"You can't come back here, sir."

"Oh, yes, I can."

"I say you cannot. The best thing you can do is to go elsewhere."

"What! do you threaten me?"

"I want you to understand that you cannot come back here. I told you I
did not wish to sell you a pistol, and that ought to be enough."

"Want to fight, boy?" demanded the man, scowling savagely and doubling
up his fists.

"No, I do not wish to fight. I merely wish to be left alone."

Matt had hardly spoken when the tipsy man hurled himself forward,
intending to catch the young auctioneer by the throat. But Matt was
too quick for him. He stepped backward, and the consequence was that
the man went headlong, striking the floor with such force that every
article in the store shook and rattled.

"You--you young villain!" panted the tipsy man, as he attempted to
rise to his feet. "What do you mean by such conduct? Help me up, do
you hear?"

"I hear, but I am not going to assist you until you promise to leave
at once," returned Matt.

"I'm going to look at those pistols first," growled the intoxicated
one, and by holding fast to the counter he managed, but not without
much difficulty, to rise to his feet once more. "That's a fine way to
treat a gentleman!"

"It was your own fault. You had no business to try to catch me by the
throat."

"And you had no business to be saucy, understand, boy, saucy? I never
allow any one to be saucy to me. Now them pistols, and no more
nonsense."

Instead of replying, Matt tried to push the man out from behind the
counter. The young auctioneer thought that if he could get him out
near the door he would then be able to summon assistance and have the
tipsy individual taken away.

Evidently the man suspected his intention. He declined to be pushed
back, and seeing what he considered a good chance, he hurled himself
at Matt once more, and this time both rolled to the floor.

In going down, the young auctioneer struck his head upon the sharp
corner of a box. He was partly stunned, and for several seconds could
not make a movement in his own favor. The piece of the fishing-rod
flew out of his hand, and this his opponent picked up.

"I'll teach you to talk to a gentleman like myself!" growled the tipsy
man, and he aimed a blow at the young auctioneer's head with the
weapon he had secured.

The blow failed to reach its mark, but undismayed by his failure to
injure Matt, the man gathered himself together and prepared for a
second attack.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

A SURPRISING DISCOVERY.


It looked as if the young auctioneer was in for a serious time of it.
As has been said, the would-be purchaser of a pistol was just drunk
enough to be ugly and unreasonable. He had refused to leave the
auction store, and now he was bent upon doing mischief to the boy who
had failed to treat him as he fancied he ought to be served.

"Now, how do you like that, you young rascal?" growled the man, as he
brought the end of the fishing-rod down for a second time.

"I don't like it at all," returned Matt, as he recovered sufficiently
to dodge out of the way, although the stick came uncomfortably close
to his ears. "Let me up at once."

"Not much, boy, not much! I'm going to teach you a lesson to be civil
to customers!"

"You are getting yourself into serious trouble."

"Ho! ho! I reckon I am able to take care of myself."

Once again the man sought to strike Matt, and this time he succeeded.
The blow landed upon the young auctioneer's shoulder, and caused him
to cry out with pain.

At that instant the door opened, and Andy entered the store, carrying
on his arm the new overcoat he had just purchased.

"What's the matter, Matt?" he cried, in quick alarm.

"Help me, Andy! This drunken man is trying to knock me out with that
stick!"

The senior partner of the firm needed no second call for assistance.
Without hesitation he flung the overcoat on a packing case, and
rushing up to Matt's assailant, caught him by the collar and dragged
him from behind the counter.

"Let me--me go!" spluttered the tipsy individual. "Let go my collar!"

"Don't you do it, Andy!" and Matt sprang to his feet as quickly as he
could.

"I don't intend to," was Andy's determined answer. "What's the meaning
of this trouble?"

"He wouldn't let me look at the pistols," whined the tipsy man,
collapsing now that he saw he was powerless to do any more injury.

"I didn't think he was in fit condition to look at anything," put in
Matt.

"You had no right to abuse my partner," said Andy, sure that Matt was
in the right of the altercation. "Now you get right out of here, and
don't show your face again."

And Andy shoved the man toward the door, which he had left partly
open.

The tipsy man began to remonstrate, and wanted to fight both of them.
He grew quite abusive, and threatened to wreck all the things in the
establishment. Before he could carry out his threat, however, Andy and
Matt landed him out on his back on the sidewalk and beckoned to a
passing policeman.

"What! so it's you again!" cried the officer, on seeing the
intoxicated individual. "I thought you had warning enough at the
hotel. What has he been doing?" he asked of Matt.

"He got mad because I wouldn't let him handle the pistols in the
place."

"The pistols?"

"Yes, sir. He insisted upon seeing the best pistol we had, and I
wouldn't accommodate him. I thought it might be dangerous. Of course
he would want cartridges, and then he might go off and shoot
somebody."

"That was his intention. He got into a row in the hotel on the next
block, and the clerk says he threatened to shoot the proprietor. I
suppose he was bent on getting the pistol to do it with. Just you come
with me, and I'll give you a chance to sober up."

The tipsy man remonstrated, and tried to make the policeman believe
that the rows at the hotel and at the store were only jokes. But the
officer would not listen, and took the drunken individual to the
station-house, where, later on, he was sentenced to thirty days in the
county jail for disturbing the peace.

"That's another side of the auction business," said Matt, after he and
Andy were left alone. "And I must confess it's a side I don't like. It
was lucky you came along when you did."

"An intoxicated man never makes a good customer, Matt. Some
store-keepers try to get his money away from him, but, as for me, I
want nothing to do with him."

The blow on the shoulder had not injured Matt, and soon the incident,
exciting as it had been, was almost forgotten. Andy had struck a
bargain, as he termed it, in the purchase of his new overcoat, and he
wished Matt to go off at once and get one like it.

"They are selling about two dozen off at bottom price," he said. "And
you want to lose no time if you wish to get fitted. It is the first
store on the third block above here."

"All right, I'll go, Andy, for I can't do without the overcoat," and
off Matt started, never once dreaming of what was going to happen on
that simple little shopping trip.

Matt located the clothing shop without difficulty. It was quite well
filled with customers, but he soon found the salesman who had served
Andy, and this young man did not keep him waiting any longer than was
absolutely necessary.

There were three overcoats which just fitted Matt, and he hesitated as
to which to take. He tried them all on, but could not decide the
question.

"I'll take them to the daylight and examine them," he said, and walked
from the center of the store, which was lighted by gas, toward the
show window.

Here he began to examine each overcoat critically. One was black, the
other brown, and third a dark blue. Matt rather fancied the dark
blue.

While he was handling over the dark-blue coat, the form of a ragged
man darkened the side of the show window furthest from the door. With
hardly a thought, Matt looked up to see who it was.

Then the heart of the young auctioneer seemed to fairly stop beating.
The ragged man on the pavement outside was _his father_!

With a sharp cry that startled every one in the establishment, Matt
dashed down the garments he held and made a rush for the door. At the
same moment the man outside, catching one glimpse of Matt's face, put
up both his hands to his forehead and sped up the street as if running
for his life!

"What's the matter with that young fellow?"

"What's the matter with the man?"

"Say, come back here!"

"Did he steal anything?"

These and a score of other cries rang out in quick succession. But
Matt paid no attention, nor did he stop to offer any explanation to
the astonished clothing salesman. He had seen his father, his father
for whom he had been searching so long and so earnestly! He could tell
that face, as haggard and white as it was, among a million.

Away sped the man up the street, and on after him came Matt, running
as he had never run before. He could not understand why his parent
should thus try to get away from him. But he did not stop to reason on
the matter. He wanted to reach his father, that was all, and he
strained every muscle to accomplish his effort.

But although Matt was a good runner, the man he was after appeared
well able to keep beyond his reach. Evidently some dreadful fear urged
him on, for many times he would look back over his shoulder, and each
time pass his hands over his forehead, as if to wipe the sight from
his brain and memory.

Soon several blocks had been passed, and then the man turned a corner,
and started toward the poorer section of the city. Matt continued to
follow for half a dozen blocks further. Then he saw his father dart
into the open hallway of a half-tumbled-down tenement.

When he reached the building the young auctioneer peered into the
hallway, but could see no one. Several little girls were playing upon
the sidewalk, and he asked them if they had seen any one go in.

"Crazy Will just went in," replied one of the girls. "Guess he has
gone up to his room in the garret."

"Crazy Will!" murmured Matt to himself. "Poor father! How thankful I
am that I have found you at last!"

And trembling with emotion, he hurried up the rickety stairs until he
reached the door of the apartment which one of the girls pointed out
as that occupied by Crazy Will.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

A MYSTERY CLEARED UP.


The door of the garret room was closed, and when Matt tried the knob,
he found that it was also locked. He knocked lightly upon it.

At first there was no response. Then a weak voice, which he could but
faintly recognize as that of his father, asked sharply:

"Who's there? What do you want? Why don't you go away and leave me
alone?"

"Father! father! come and open the door!" exclaimed Matt, his voice
trembling as it had never trembled before.

"Who speaks? Go away, I say, and leave a poor old man alone!"

"Father, it is me, Matt! Don't you remember me?"

"Matt! Matt! Oh, no, Matt was lost when his mother was lost and the
money! Yes, the money, mother, and Matt! Too bad! Go away, and don't
persecute me!"

"No, father, you are mistaken. I am here, father--your only son, Matt.
Please open the door."

"You are fooling me! Didn't you fool me about Matt only last week and
throw a pail of water on me, and call me Crazy Will? Go away, I say!"

"No, father, I will not go away! You must open the door! You _must_! I
have been hunting for you so long--ever since mother died and you
disappeared, and now that I have found you, we shall never separate
again. Open the door; do, please."

These words, spoken with an intensity which cannot be described, had
the necessary effect upon the poor, weak-minded man inside of the
garret room. Matt heard him move slowly toward the door, and then
heard the key turn in the lock. The next instant the door opened, and
the boy sprang into the room and caught his father around the neck.

"Oh, father, don't you know me?" he cried, with deep emotion. "It is
Matt, your only son!"

He looked his father steadily in the eyes, the tears meanwhile
coursing freely down his cheeks. Mr. Lincoln returned the gaze for a
moment, then the wild look died out of his eyes, and his breast heaved
and he gave a deep sob.

"Matt! Matt! It is really you! My son! my son!"

He caught the boy in his arms and hugged him to his breast, sobbing
the meanwhile like a little child. He spoke of his wife and her death,
of his lost money, and a hundred other things, and then, in the midst
of it all, threw up his arms and sank to the floor in a dead faint.

A less courageous boy than Matt would have been badly scared. But he
knew of these fainting spells, for his father had had them years
before and had always come out of them feeling weaker in body, it was
true, but always clearer in mind.

In one corner of the room lay an old mattress, and upon this he placed
his father's form. Then he opened the tightly-closed window and began
to bathe his father's forehead with some water that stood in a cracked
pitcher near by.

Two of the girls that had told him about Crazy Will had followed him
up the tenement stairs and were now standing outside of the
garret-room door, staring at all that was going on. Matt called them
in.

"Do either of you want to earn twenty-five cents?" he asked.

"What doin'?" asked the older of the two girls promptly.

"I want you to deliver a message for me."

"Where to?"

Matt mentioned the auction store and described its location. The girl
said she knew where it was and would willingly take a message there.

"Don't yer want a doctor?" she asked.

"Not yet. You take this note and it will be all right. But you must
not lose a minute."

"I'll run all the way," replied the girl.

Taking out a notebook he carried, Matt hastily scribbled down the
following brief message:

  "ANDY: I have found my father. Come with the bearer at once.

  MATT."

This he folded up and addressed to his partner. In another minute the
girl was flying down the tenement stairs, two steps at a time, the
other girl close behind her.

When they were gone Matt closed the door and again turned his
attention to his father.

Mr. Lincoln's eyes were still closed, but by putting his ear down to
his parent's chest, Matt found that his father was breathing quite
regularly. He continued to bathe his parent's forehead and also fanned
him with a newspaper which was lying by.

While waiting for his father to come to again, Matt could not help but
gaze at the surroundings. The garret room was small and bare of
furniture, containing nothing but the mattress, a broken-down stove,
and a few cracked dishes. There was half a loaf of stale bread beside
the dishes, and nothing else to eat was in sight.

"What a place to live in!" murmured the boy to himself. "Poor father!
Poor father!"

He again bent over the motionless form, and it was not long before he
had the satisfaction of seeing his father open his eyes.

"Matt, is it really you, or is this another one of those tantalizing
dreams?" asked Mr. Lincoln feebly, as he essayed to rise to a sitting
position.

"It is really I, father," returned the son gently. "You had better lie
still for awhile. Your run exhausted you."

"How thankful I am that it is really you! But there must be some
mistake. I have dreamed of these things before. That is why I ran
away."

"There is no mistake now, father, it is really and truly I," and Matt
bent lower and wound his arms around his father's neck. "You have
nothing more to fear, father. Just rely on me for everything."

"I will, Matt, I will! I know it is you, now that you are so close to
me!"

"And, father, you must promise that you will not run away again."

"I promise, Matt. My mind was upset--it's upset yet, I'm afraid. But
I won't leave you, Matt; I won't leave you. I used to imagine I saw
you, and then the boys on the street would plague me and call me Crazy
Will. But that's all over now, thank Heaven! That's all over now!"



CHAPTER XL.

THE MINING SHARES--CONCLUSION.


In less than half an hour Andy reached the garret room, and Matt told
his partner his story. Andy was introduced to Mr. Lincoln as a friend
who could be trusted in all things, and although the weak-minded man
was suspicious of all strangers, he made no demonstration against his
son's companion.

"I wish to take him to some quiet place, where he can have the best of
medical attention," said Matt to Andy. "Do you think you can find such
a place? I do not dare to leave him yet."

"I will do my best," returned Andy.

He went off in search of the right place, and in an hour came back,
accompanied by a pleasant man fifty or sixty years of age, whom he
introduced as Dr. Zabrinsky.

"The doctor will take your father into his own home," he said. "He has
two patients suffering from mental troubles and makes a specialty of
such things. He will do his best."

Matt was pleased by the medical man's appearance, and after some
little conversation, a carriage was called, and Mr. Lincoln was
removed, accompanied by Matt, to the doctor's private sanitarium. Andy
was left behind to go over Mr. Lincoln's meager effects and bring away
anything of value.

At the doctor's home the almost helpless man was made as comfortable
as possible. He was inclined to become excited over what had happened,
but the doctor administered an opiate, and he soon after sank into a
gentle slumber.

When Andy reached the house some time later his face betoken that he
had something of unusual interest to tell. He bore a package of papers
in his hand, and these he handed over to Matt.

"I found then stuck in the mattress," he said. "They are papers in
reference to the mining shares your father purchased from Randolph
Fenton. From what you have told me, I believe Fenton swindled your
father. As soon as your father is well enough to be left I would send
for that Mr. Gaston and have the matter looked up."

Matt examined the papers with keen interest. He became satisfied that
Andy was right, and determined to act upon his suggestions.

Dr. Zabrinsky was true to his word. He did all that was possible for
the sufferer, and between his medical skill and Matt's watchful care,
Mr. Lincoln recovered rapidly. Once in a great while his mind would
take on a flighty turn, but Matt was watchful and always calmed him
down, and at the end of six months the man whose mind had been so
strangely affected was as rational and well as ever.

Long before this time Matt made a trip to New York and called upon Ida
Bartlett at her new place of business. They had a long conversation
concerning Randolph Fenton and his methods of selling stocks and
shares.

At the end of this talk Matt made inquiries concerning Mr. Gaston's
whereabouts. He learned that the former clerk was in Bridgeport,
Connecticut, and telegraphed that he wished to see him without delay.
On the following Friday morning Mr. Gaston presented himself at the
hotel at which Matt was stopping.

The young auctioneer went over his entire story and produced the
papers which had been in his father's possession. He promised Gaston a
liberal reward should they succeed in forcing Randolph Fenton to make
proper restitution for a transaction that was undoubtedly criminal
upon its face.

The old book-keeper at once consented to do what he could. He called
in a lawyer of thorough experience, and several affidavits were made
out, and a search made for Mr. Lincoln's rightful shares, for the
ones Randolph Fenton had assigned to him had been some of a similar
name but of far less value. Then all hands marched down to the
broker's office.

Randolph Fenton was somewhat surprised to see Matt, and he turned
slightly pale when Gaston confronted him, accompanied by the lawyer
and another man he knew was a private detective.

Without preliminaries, the lawyer explained the object of the visit.
As he proceeded the broker grew paler and paler, and he clutched the
arms of his chair nervously.

"You--you are mistaken!" he finally gasped out. "That transaction was
perfectly legitimate. This is a plot on the part of that man and that
boy to ruin my reputation!"

"It is no plot, Mr. Fenton," put in Matt. "For my poor father's sake
as well as my own, I ask for justice; that is all. Your actions
unbalanced my father's mind, and if I wanted to be hard-hearted I
would not rest until you were behind the prison bars."

"Stuff and nonsense! This is all a put-up job----"

"Don't get excited, Mr. Fenton," said the lawyer pointedly. "The boy
is letting you down very easily, to my way of thinking."

"Tut-tut! I won't listen to a word! I want you all to leave this
office and stop this farce!"

"If we have to leave without satisfaction you will go with Mr.
Briarly, the detective," cried Matt. "Now you can take your choice. I
am no longer your office boy, and you cannot twist me around your
finger."

These words filled Randolph Fenton with rage. He wanted to abuse
everybody within hearing, but both the lawyer and the detective cut
him short by threatening him with immediate arrest. Finally he asked
for time in which to consider the case.

This was granted, but after they left Matt instructed the detective to
keep a close watch on the man, fearful that Fenton, who, according to
Mr. Gaston's statement, was in bad favor in a number of places, would
convert what securities he held into cash and leave for parts
unknown.

It was well that Matt did this, for on the following night the
detective captured the broker just as the latter was boarding a train
at the Grand Central depot. He had a satchel full of money with him,
and in his card case was found a railroad ticket for Montreal, Canada.
Randolph Fenton was placed under arrest, and then all of his many
misdeeds were thoroughly investigated and exposed.

Out of the wreckage the swindling broker had left behind him Matt was
able to secure three-fourths of the rightful shares of mining stock
for his father. These shares had gone up in value and were found to be
worth close on to fifty-eight thousand dollars. To Matt, who, in his
wanderings around, had learned the true value of money, it seemed a
fortune.

"You won't want any more of the auction business," said Andy. "You
will have your hands full taking care of that money and your father."

"Yes, I guess my days as a young auctioneer are over," returned Matt.
"I want to get a better education if possible, and thus fit myself for
something higher in life."

"What about your share in the business? I can't buy it out just yet."

"I have talked it over with father, Andy, and I have decided to make
you a present of it. You deserve it, for ever since we met you have
been a real brother to me. Make what you can out of the business, and
if you ever get in a tight corner don't hesitate to come to me, and I
will do what I can for you."

Andy demurred at Matt's generosity, but was finally persuaded to
accept the gift. He settled in Middletown for the winter and did very
well. In the spring he started on his travels again, and by fall had
made enough to open a good-sized picture and art store in New York
City on Fourteenth street. He still runs the store and is making money
fast, much to the disgust of Caleb Gulligan, who grows poorer each
year.

After Matt left the auction business he settled down with his father
in a quiet home on the Hudson River, not many miles above the great
metropolis. He took care of his father until the next autumn, when Mr.
Lincoln felt sufficiently recovered to go into business, and purchased
the controlling interest in a large flour and feed establishment. The
business is very prosperous. Ida Bartlett is stenographer and
confidential clerk to the firm, and has a well-paying position, which
will remain open for her so long as the kind-hearted young woman cares
to occupy it. Matt did not fail to keep his former determination to
give her a handsome Christmas present, and the two are likely to be
life-long friends.

As for Matt himself, he has just finished a course at Columbia
College, and next month will become the junior partner in a promising
young law firm. Let us wish him every success, for the honest and
fearless lad who was once the Young Auctioneer deserves it.


THE END.



                  *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Note:

  Illustrations have been moved closer to their relevant paragraphs.

  Author's archaic and variable spelling and hyphenation is
  preserved.

  Author's punctuation style is preserved.

  Passages in italics indicated by _underscores_.

  Passages in bold indicated by =equal signs=.

  Typographical problems have been changed and are listed below.


Transcriber's Changes:

  Page 70: Was 'cabman' (several =cabmen= were busy getting out their
           horses and cabs)

  Page 168: Was 'auctioneeer' (This the young =auctioneer= did without
            hesitation.)

  Page 173: Was 'telergaph' (and he started for the =telegraph= office
            without delay.)

  Page 196: Was 'parter' (as Andy came in he grasped his =partner= by
            the shoulder.)

  Page 286: Was 'was was' (Matt was surprised at this statement, and
            he =was= also alarmed.)





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including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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