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Title: Nelson The Newsboy - Or, Afloat in New York
Author: Stratemeyer, Edward, Horatio Alger Jr.
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 "Nelson The Newsboy - Or, Afloat in New York" ***

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NELSON THE NEWSBOY

_Or, Afloat in New York_

BY

HORATIO ALGER, JR.

AUTHOR OF "ADRIFT IN NEW YORK," "CHESTER RAND,"
"PAUL THE PEDDLER," ETC.


COMPLETED BY

ARTHUR M. WINFIELD

AUTHOR OF "THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL," "THE
ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN," ETC.

[Illustration: Decoration]

NEW YORK

STITT PUBLISHING COMPANY

1905


[Illustration: "HE CAUGHT SIGHT OF THE BULLY NEWSBOY WHO HAD ROBBED
HIM."--_Frontispiece._]



BY THE SAME AUTHOR


     THE YOUNG BOOK AGENT; Or, Frank Hardy's Road to Success.


     FROM FARM TO FORTUNE; Or, Nat Nason's Strange Experience.


     LOST AT SEA; Or, Robert Roscoe's Strange Cruise.


     JERRY, THE BACKWOODS BOY; Or, The Parkhurst Treasure.


     NELSON, THE NEWSBOY; Or, Afloat in New York.


     YOUNG CAPTAIN JACK; Or, The Son of a Soldier.


     OUT FOR BUSINESS; Or, Robert Frost's Strange Career.


     FALLING IN WITH FORTUNE; Or, The Experiences of a Young Secretary.


_12mo, finely illustrated and bound. Price, per volume, 60 cents._


NEW YORK

STITT PUBLISHING COMPANY

1905


COPYRIGHT, 1901, BY

THE MERSHON COMPANY

_All rights reserved_



PREFACE.


"NELSON THE NEWSBOY" relates the adventures of a wide-awake lad in the
great metropolis. The youth is of unknown parentage and is thrown out
upon his own resources at a tender age. He becomes at first a newsboy,
and from that gradually works up to something better. He is often
tempted to do wrong--the temptation becoming particularly hard on
account of his extreme poverty--but there is that in his make-up which
keeps him in the right path, and in the end he becomes a victor in more
ways than one.

So much for the seamy side of life in New York, which, alas! is by far
the greater side. On the other hand, there are those who are well-to-do
and aristocratic who are interested in learning what has become of the
boy, and these furnish a view of life in the upper society of the
metropolis. How the youthful hero fares in the end is told in the pages
which follow.

In its original form Mr. Alger intended this story of New York life for
a semi-juvenile drama. But it was not used in that shape, and when the
gifted author of so many interesting stories for young people had laid
aside his pen forever, this manuscript, with others, was placed in the
hands of the present writer, to be made over into such a volume as might
have met with the noted author's approval. The other books having proved
successful, my one wish is that this may follow in their footsteps.

ARTHUR M. WINFIELD.

_June 15, 1901._



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER                                 PAGE
     I. INTRODUCING THE HERO,              1

    II. A QUARREL OVER A DOLLAR,           9

   III. SAM PEPPER'S RESORT,              17

    IV. DOWN AT THE FERRY,                25

     V. NELSON SPEAKS HIS MIND,           35

    VI. A BOOK AGENT'S TRIALS,            43

   VII. A HARSH ALTERNATIVE,              55

  VIII. THE COMBINATION OF THE SAFE,      63

    IX. A PAIR WELL MATCHED,              69

     X. GERTRUDE LEAVES HER HOME,         77

    XI. AFLOAT IN NEW YORK,               85

   XII. NELSON RECOVERS SOME MONEY,       94

  XIII. A QUESTION OF BUSINESS,          102

   XIV. BULSON RECEIVES A SETBACK,       111

    XV. BUYING OUT A NEWS STAND,         119

   XVI. NELSON AND PEPPER PART,          127

  XVII. A BOLD MOVE,                     134

 XVIII. IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY,       140

   XIX. NELSON TO THE RESCUE,            147

    XX. THE HOME IN THE TENEMENT,        155

   XXI. NELSON MAKES A PRESENT,          162

  XXII. A DISAPPOINTMENT,                170

 XXIII. AN UNSUCCESSFUL QUEST,           176

  XXIV. A DECOY LETTER,                  183

   XXV. MARK HORTON RELENTS,             190

  XXVI. NELSON ON SHIPBOARD,             198

 XXVII. DOWN THE JERSEY COAST,           206

XXVIII. GERTRUDE HAS AN ADVENTURE,       215

  XXIX. A SURPRISE ON THE ROAD,          224

   XXX. COMPARING NOTES,                 233

  XXXI. BULSON GROWS DESPERATE,          240

 XXXII. SOMEBODY WAITS IN VAIN,          248

XXXIII. QUESTIONS OF IMPORTANCE,         257

 XXXIV. FATHER AND SON--CONCLUSION,      266



NELSON THE NEWSBOY.



CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCING THE HERO.


"_Herald_, _Times_, _Tribune_! All the news of the day! Have a paper,
sir? All about the terrible fire in Harlem! Two lives lost!"

High and clear above the din made by the cabs, trucks, and street cars a
boyish voice could be heard. The speaker was but fifteen years of age,
tall and thin, with a face that betokened a refinement unusual to such a
station in life. But if the lad's look was above the average, his
clothes were not, for they were in tatters, while the hat and shoes he
wore had seen far better days.

"A fire in Harlem, eh?" queried a stout gentleman, as he stopped short
in front of the newsboy.

"Yes, sir; a big one, too, sir. Which paper will you have?"

"Which has the most in about the fire?"

"All about the same, sir. Better take 'em all, sir. Then you'll be sure
to have all the news," added the newsboy shrewdly.

At this the stout gentleman laughed.

"I don't know but what you are right," he said. "Give me one of each."

The words were scarcely uttered when the newsboy had the papers ready
for him. Taking the several sheets, the stout man passed over a dime and
started to cross the crowded thoroughfare.

"Change, sir!" cried the boy, and dove into his pocket for a handful of
cents.

"Never mind the change, lad."

"Thank you, sir!" The newsboy wheeled quickly. "_Herald_, _Times_,
_Tribune_! Who'll have a paper? All the latest news! Extra!"

The stout man stepped from the curb into the gutter, and there halted to
let a truck go by. As he waited he began to scan one of the newspapers
he had purchased. Suddenly he gave a violent start.

"Fire in the Starmore apartment house!" he muttered. "The building I
purchased only last month! What bad luck is this?"

Still staring at the newspaper, he passed onward behind the heavy truck.
Another truck and a street car were coming from the opposite direction,
and both traveling at a good rate of speed.

"Hi! look out!" yelled the truck-driver, and the street-car bell clanged
violently. But the stout man was too absorbed in the newspaper to heed
the warnings.

The cry of the truck-driver reached the ears of the quick-witted
newsboy, and in a flash he saw the danger.

"Oh, the gentleman will be run over!" he muttered, and throwing his
papers on the pavement, he made a leap into the street and grabbed the
man by the arm. Just as he drew the stout individual back the truck
horse plunged forward, grazing the man's side. Had it not been for the
newsboy, the stout gentleman would have collapsed in the gutter. But as
it was each, in a moment more, gained the pavement in safety.

"Phew! that was a narrow escape," puffed the stout gentleman, as soon as
he could get back some of the wind he had lost in his consternation.

"So it was," answered the newsboy, as he stepped about to pick up his
scattering stock in trade.

The stout gentleman brought out a large handkerchief and began to mop
his face, for the excitement had put him into a perspiration.

"My lad, you've done me a great service," he went on, after the boy had
collected his papers.

"That's all right, sir," was the ready reply. "Sorry you lost your
papers. The truck cut 'em up, and they are all muddy, besides."

"Never mind the papers--you can sell me another set. But I want to thank
you for what you did for me."

"You're welcome, sir. Here's the other set of papers."

"If it hadn't been for you, I might have fallen under that horse and
truck!" The stout man shuddered. "Here is pay for the papers and for
your services to me."

As he finished he held out a two-dollar bill.

"Why, it's two dollars!" cried the newsboy in astonishment. Then he
added quickly, "I can't change it."

"I don't want you to change it. I want you to keep it."

"What for?"

"For what you did for me."

"What I did aint worth two dollars."

"Let me be the judge of that, my lad. What is your name?"

"I'm Nelson, sir."

"What is your full name?"

At this question the boy's face fell, and his mouth trembled a little as
he gave his answer.

"I don't know, sir."

"What, you don't know what your name is?" cried the stout gentleman in
astonishment.

"No, sir."

"But--but--you must have some name. Where do you live?"

"I live over on the East Side with an old sailor named Samuel Pepper. He
keeps a lunch room."

"Is he a relative?"

"He calls himself my father--not my real father, you know; only he says
he adopted me when I was a little kid. Everybody around there calls me
Nelson, or Sam Pepper's boy."

"I see. And he sends you out to sell papers?"

"No, sir; I go out on my own hook."

"But you ought to go to school."

"I go to night school sometimes, when Sam lets me."

"Didn't he ever send you to day school?"

At this Nelson, for so we will call him for the present, shook his head.

"Sam don't like the schools. He says if I go I'll get too smart for him.
He says I am almost too smart already."

"Too bad!" The stout gentleman was going to say something more, but
suddenly remembered about the fire in Harlem. "Perhaps I'll see you
again, Nelson. I can't stop now. Do you know why I forgot myself in the
street? It was because that fire proved to be in an apartment house that
I purchased only a month ago."

"Your house! That's a big loss, sir."

"The place was insured, so I shall not expect to lose much. I must get
up there at once and see see how it was those lives were lost."

In a moment more the stout gentleman was crossing the street again, but
this time taking very good care that he should not be taken unawares.

Nelson started to sell more papers, when another boy, who had been
selling papers further down the block, came hurrying toward him.

"Wot did de old gent give yer, Nelse?" he asked.

"Gave me two dollars."

"Two dollars! Jest fer hauling him back out of de gutter?"

"I kept him from being run over by a truck."

"Den he oughter give yer ten or twenty."

"Two was more than enough, Billy."

At this Billy Darnley drew down his mouth.

"I would have struck him fer a twenty, sure," he went on.

"You always were greedy, Billy," answered Nelson.

"Do you mean dat fer an insult, Nelse?"

"I mean it for the truth."

"You're gittin' too high-toned fer dis business, Nelse."

"I don't think I am."

"Lend me a dollar of dat money, will yer? I'll pay yer back ter-morrow."

At this Nelson shook his head.

"I'm sorry, Billy, but I'd rather keep my money."

"Are you afraid to trust me?"

"I don't see why I should trust you. You earn as much money as I do."

"You didn't earn dat two dollars."

"The gentleman thought I did."

"He was a soft one."

"He was a very nice man," retorted Nelson promptly.

"O' course you'd stick up fer him. Let me have de dollar."

"What do you want to do with it?"

Now in truth Billy thought of nothing but to have a good time with the
money, but he did not deem it prudent to tell Nelson so.

"I--I want to buy myself a new pair of pants," he stammered.

"Your pants are better than mine."

"No, da aint--d'are full o' holes."

"Why don't you sew them up, as I do?"

"I aint no woman, to use a needle. Come, hand over de dollar!" And Billy
held out his dirty fingers.

"I shan't let you have it, and that ends it," said Nelson firmly.

He started to move on, but in a moment more Billy Darnley was beside him
and had him clutched firmly by the arm.



CHAPTER II.

A QUARREL OVER A DOLLAR.


As Nelson had said, he was of unknown parentage and practically alone in
the world. As far back as he could remember he had lived with Sam
Pepper, a shiftless, unprincipled man, who in the last ten years had
followed the sea and a dozen other callings, and who was at present the
proprietor of a lunch-room on the East Side--a place frequented by many
persons of shady reputation.

Where he had come from, and what his real name was, were complete
mysteries to Nelson, and it must be confessed that in the past he had
paid scant attention to them; this being largely due to his immature
years. Now, however, he was growing older, and he often found himself
wondering how it was that he was living with Sam Pepper.

Once he had asked the man, but the only answer he received was a growl
and a demand that he stop asking foolish questions. "You're only a kid
yet," said Pepper. "Wait till you're old enough; maybe then you'll learn
a thing or two." And so Nelson waited, but did not cease to wonder.

Many of Sam Pepper's intimates were hard customers, and Nelson was of
the opinion that Pepper himself was no better, although he was not in a
position to prove it. The boy was driven out to earn his own living, and
the only time that Pepper was liberal with him was when the man was in
liquor.

More than once Nelson had thought to run away from the man and his evil
associates, but found himself unable to do so. The main reason for his
remaining was that he felt Pepper held the mystery of his past, and if
he went away that mystery would remain forever unsolved.

As Nelson had said, he had gained a scanty education by attending night
school. To this education he had added some useful reading, so he was
advanced as far as most boys in much better circumstances. Learning
appeared to come easy to him, showing that his mind was of the superior
sort.

Nelson had started out that morning with a determination to sell all the
papers possible, and keep on with his efforts until he had eight or ten
dollars to his credit. With this amount he intended to invest in a suit
which he had seen advertised for six dollars, a cap, and a cheap pair
of shoes. He did not know but what Pepper might find fault with him for
"cutting such a swell," but he was willing to risk it.

Before meeting the stout gentleman Nelson's assets amounted to three
dollars and forty cents. With the ten cents for papers and the two
dollars extra, he now found himself with five dollars and half to his
credit. This was not a fortune, but as Nelson had never before possessed
more than three dollars at one time, it was, to his way of thinking,
considerable.

The suggestion that he lend Billy Darnley a dollar did not appeal to
him. In the first place he knew Billy to be both a bully and a
spendthrift, who was more than likely to squander the money on pie, ice
cream, cigarettes, and a ticket to some cheap burlesque show, and in the
second place he was more than satisfied that Billy would never refund
the loan, not having returned a quarter loaned him months before.

"Let go my arm, Billy!" he cried, as the big newsboy brought him to a
halt.

"Why can't yer let me have de dollar?" questioned Billy. "I'll make it
right wid yer, Nelse; take me word on it."

"How is it you haven't paid back that quarter I let you have?"

"I did pay it back."

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did. I--I give it to Sam one day to give to yer."

By the look on his face Nelson knew that the bully was falsifying.

"Sam never told me, and I guess he would if it was so. Now let me go."

"I want dat dollar first."

"You shan't have it."

Nelson had scarcely spoken when Billy Darnley made a sudden clutch for
the pocket of his vest.

Much dilapidated, the pocket gave way easily; and in a twinkle the bully
was running up the street with five dollars in bills and a bit of cloth
clutched tightly in his dirty fist.

"Hi! stop!" cried Nelson, but instead of heeding the demand, the bully
only ran the faster. Soon he passed around a corner and down a side
street leading to the East River.

Nelson was an excellent runner, and, papers under his arm, he lost no
time in making after the thief. Thus block after block was passed, until
pursued and pursuer were but a short distance from one of the ferry
entrances.

A boat was on the point of leaving, and without waiting to obtain a
ferry ticket, Billy Darnley slipped in among the trucks going aboard. A
gate-keeper tried in vain to catch him, and then came back and shut the
gate, just as Nelson reached it.

"Open the gate!" cried Nelson, so out of breath he could scarcely utter
the words. "Open the gate, quick!"

"Go around to the other entrance," replied the gate-keeper, and then
added, "Are you after that other newsboy?"

"I am. He stole five dollars from me."

"Five dollars! That's a good one. You never had five dollars in your
life. You can't get a free ride on any such fairy tale as that. You go
around and buy a ticket, or I'll call a policeman."

In despair Nelson looked through the high, slatted gate and saw that the
gates on the ferryboat were already down. A bell jangled, and the big
paddle wheels began to revolve. In another moment the boat had left the
slip and was on its way to Brooklyn.

"He's gone--and the five dollars is gone, too!" groaned Nelson, and his
heart sank. He knew that it would be useless to attempt to follow the
bully. Billy would keep out of sight so long as the money lasted. When
it was spent he would re-appear in New York and deny everything, and to
prove that he was a thief would be next to impossible, for, so far as
Nelson knew, nobody had seen the money taken.

He had now but fifty cents left, and a stock of papers worth half a
dollar more, if sold. With a heavy heart he walked away from the
ferryhouse in the direction from whence he had come.

Nelson had scarcely taken his stand at the corner again when a young
lady, very stylishly dressed, came out of a neighboring store, looked at
him, and smiled.

"Did you catch him?" she asked sweetly.

"Who, miss; the big boy who stole my money?" questioned Nelson quickly.

"Yes."

"No, ma'am; he got away, on a Brooklyn ferryboat."

"And how much did he steal from you?"

"Five dollars."

"Why, I didn't think--that is, five dollars is a nice sum for a newsboy,
isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am; but I was saving up for a new suit of clothes."

"And he got away from you? Too bad! I wish I could help you, but
unfortunately I have spent all of my money but this." She held out a
quarter. "Will you accept it?"

Nelson looked at her, and something compelled him to draw back.

"Excuse me--but I'd rather not," he stammered. "Much obliged, just the
same."

"You had better take the money," went on the young lady, whose name was
Gertrude Horton. But Nelson would not listen to it, and so she had to
place the piece in her purse again. Then she entered the coach standing
near and was driven rapidly away. The newsboy gazed after the coach
curiously.

"What a lot of money it must take to keep up such style!" he thought.
"Those folks spend more in a week, I guess, than some folks on the East
Side spend in a year. I don't wonder Sam is always growling about not
being rich--after he's been out among the wealthy people he knows. I
must say I'd like to be rich myself, just for once, to see how it
feels."

Long before noon Nelson's stock of newspapers was exhausted. Without
going to Sam Pepper's restaurant for lunch he stopped at a small stand
on a side street, where he obtained several crullers and a cup of coffee
for five cents. His scanty meal over he purchased a supply of evening
papers and set to work to sell these, with the result, by nightfall,
that all were gone, and he was thirty-five cents richer.

Sam Pepper's place on the East Side was half a dozen steps below the
pavement, in a semi-basement, which was narrow and low and suffering
greatly for a thorough cleaning. In the front was a small show window,
filled with pies and vegetables, and behind this eight or ten tables for
diners. To one side was a lunch counter for those who were in a hurry,
and at the back was a small bar. The cooking was done in a shed in the
rear, and beside this shed were two rooms which Nelson and Sam Pepper
called their home.

The whole place was so uninviting it is a wonder that Sam Pepper had any
trade at all. But his prices were low, and this was a large attraction
to those whose purses were slim. Besides this Sam never interfered with
those who came to patronize him, and it may as well be stated here that
many a crime was concocted at those tables, without the police of the
metropolis being the wiser. To Sam it made no difference if his customer
was the worst criminal on the East Side so long as he paid his way.

"We've all got to live," he would say. "The world owes every man a
living, and if he can't git it one way he must git it in another."

The secret of Sam Pepper's looseness of morals was the fact that he had
seen better days, and his coming down in the world had caused him to
become more and more reckless. At the present time money was tight with
him, and he was fast approaching that point when, as we shall soon see,
he would be fit for any desperate deed.



CHAPTER III.

SAM PEPPER'S RESORT.


"Well, how have you done to-day?" asked Sam Pepper, when Nelson entered
the lunch-room and came to the rear, where Pepper stood mixing some
liquors.

"Oh, I sold quite a few papers," answered Nelson.

"How many?"

"Over a hundred."

"Then I guess you made over a dollar?"

"I did."

"That's more than I've made to-day," growled Pepper. "Business is
growing worse and worse."

Nelson knew that he must have made more than a dollar, but he did not
say anything on the point. He saw that Sam Pepper was in an ugly mood.

"It seems to me you ought to begin paying something for your keep," went
on the lunch-room keeper, after he had returned from serving the drinks
he had been mixing.

"All right, I'm willing," said Nelson readily. "But I don't get much
from here now, remember."

"It's not my fault if you are not here at dinner time. Plenty of eating
going to waste."

"I am not going to eat other folks' left-overs," said the newsboy,
remembering the offer made to him several days before.

"Those left-overs are good enough for the likes of you, Nelson. Don't
git high-toned before you can afford it."

"What do you want me to pay?"

"You ought to pay me at least five dollars a week," growled Sam Pepper,
after a crafty look into the boy's face.

"Five dollars a week!" ejaculated Nelson in surprise. "Why, I don't make
it, excepting when business is good."

"Well, it's got to be five dollars a week after this."

"I can get board at other places for three."

"You won't go to no other place. You'll stay here, and if you make a
dollar or more a day you'll pay me the five dollars."

"But who will buy me any clothes?"

"Aint that suit good enough?"

"No, it's not. I was saving up to buy another suit, but Billy Darnley
stole five dollars of the savings from me this morning," went on Nelson
bitterly.

"Stole five dollars from you? I don't believe you."

"It's true."

"Then you ought to lose the money, seeing that you didn't pass it over
to me," grumbled Sam Pepper. "After this, you let me save your money for
you."

At this point some customers came in, and Sam had to wait on them.
Seeing this, the newsboy passed around the bar and into the two rooms
which he and Pepper called home. They were gloomy and foul-smelling, but
the newsboy did not mind this, for he was used to the surroundings. Yet
his heart was heavy, as he threw himself into a dilapidated chair and
gave himself up to his thoughts.

The new suit of clothes seemed further off than ever, for, if he must
pay Sam Pepper five dollars a week for his board, it would be utterly
impossible for him to save a cent. The extra money would be needed to
buy fresh papers each day.

"It isn't fair!" he muttered. "It isn't fair, and I won't stand it! I'll
run away first; that's what I'll do!"

Running away was no new idea, but, as before, he thought of the past and
of what Sam Pepper might have locked up in his breast. No, it would not
do to go away. He must unlock the mystery of the past first.

"I'll question Sam to-night, and I'll make him tell something," he said.

The resolve had hardly crossed his mind when Pepper opened the door with
a bang, as it flew back against the wall.

"Come out here and help me," he snarled. "There is plenty of work to do.
The kitchen woman has left me in the lurch. Throw off your coat and git
into that dishpan, and be lively about it."

Without a word, Nelson did as bidden. He had washed dishes before, and
though the pile beside him was by no means small, he soon made away with
them. Then Pepper set him to polishing up the knives, forks, and spoons,
and this task took until it was time to close for the night.

After the lunch-room had been locked up, and most of the lights put out,
Sam Pepper went to the bar and mixed himself an extra-large glass of
liquor. This was his "nightcap," as he called it, and usually, after
drinking it, he would retire.

To-night, however, after consuming the liquor, he went into one of the
back rooms and got out his best coat and his hat.

"I'm going out an hour or so," he said. "You keep good watch while I'm
away."

"All right," answered Nelson. He was disappointed at not being able to
question Pepper, but saw there was no help for it. Soon the man was
gone, and Nelson was left alone. Pepper had locked the street door and
taken the key with him.

The day's work had made Nelson tired, but he was in no humor for
sleeping, and tumbled and tossed for a long while after lying down upon
his hard couch. He thought of the stout gentleman, of the big newsboy
who had robbed him, and of the kind young lady who had offered him
assistance. For some reason he could not get the young lady out of his
mind, and he half wished he might see her again.

Then his thoughts came back to himself. Who was he, and how had he come
into Sam Pepper's care? Surely the man must know all about the past.
What could Pepper be hiding from him?

At last he fell asleep, and did not rouse up until early morning. Sam
Pepper was just returning, and a glance showed that the man was more
than half under the influence of liquor.

"It's a good game," muttered Pepper to himself, as he stumbled around,
preparing to retire, "A good game, and it will make me rich. And Nelson
shall help me, too."

"Help you at what?" asked the newsboy sleepily.

"Never mind now, you go to sleep," answered Pepper sharply.

He pitched himself on his bed and was soon snoring lustily, and seeing
this Nelson did not attempt to disturb him. He slept soundly for the
rest of the night, and by six o'clock was outdoors and on his way to get
his supply of morning papers.

Pepper had warned him to come back by eleven o'clock, to go at the
dishes again, for the kitchen woman was not coming back. This made him
cautious about investing in newspapers. However, trade proved brisk, and
by ten o'clock he had sold out, and cleared sixty cents.

"I won't buy any more papers until after dinner," he said to himself.
"I'll walk down to the ferry and see if I can find out anything about
Billy Darnley."

At the ferry there was the usual rush of passengers, the noise of the
heavy trucks coming and going, and the shrill cries of the newsboys.
Nelson stopped near the ferryhouse to view the scene.

Hardly had he paused when his attention was attracted to a quarrel
between a large newsboy and a small one. The larger lad was shaking his
fist in the face of the smaller.

"You keep away from dis corner, Paul Randall!" said the big newsboy. "If
yer don't I'll fix yer, remember dat!"

"I have as much right here as you, Len Snocks!" replied the little
fellow.

"Yer aint got no right here at all!" blustered Len Snocks. "Dis is my
spot, see?"

"You didn't pay for it."

"Don't yer talk back ter me!" howled Len Snocks, and catching the little
lad's stock of papers he threw them down in the mud of the street. "Now
clear out, or I'll t'row you down de same way," he went on.

The scene made Nelson's blood boil. He recognized both boys, and knew
that Paul Randall helped support a mother who was half blind. Len Snocks
was a bully belonging to the crowd with whom Billy Darnley associated.

Rushing across the roadway, Nelson caught Len Snocks by the arm and held
him tightly.

"You big brute!" he cried. "Why don't you tackle a fellow your own
size?"

"Oh, Nelson, he has spoiled my papers!" sobbed Paul, running to save
what was left of the stock.

"Lemme go!" snarled Len Snocks. "Lemme go, do yer hear?"

"You must give Paul clean papers for the dirty ones," returned Nelson
firmly.

"I won't do it!"

"I'll make you do it."

"Make me?" roared Len. "I'd like to see you try it."

In a twinkle Nelson placed one foot behind the bully. Then he gave the
big newsboy a shove which landed him flat on his back. On the instant he
was down on top of Len.

"How many papers are dirty, Paul?" he asked.

"Two _Suns_, a _World_, and a _Journal_," was the quick answer.

"Take 'em out of Len's pile."

"Lemme up, or I'll kill you!" howled the bully, and struggled to arise.
But Nelson was master of the situation. He continued to hold Len down,
and did not let go until Paul had the papers he wished. Then he leaped
up, squared off on the defensive, and awaited the outcome of the
encounter. Paul lost no time in placing himself behind his newly found
champion.



CHAPTER IV.

DOWN AT THE FERRY.


Len Snocks' eyes flashed dangerously when he confronted Nelson. For a
long time he had had matters all his own way around the ferryhouse, and
the only boys who were allowed to sell papers there besides himself were
such as would toady to him and help him sell his over-supply when trade
was dull with him. Often he made the lads pay him five or ten cents for
selling papers there, when trade was extra lively.

Paul Randall had no father, and his mother being half blind and quite
feeble, the lad felt that every cent he earned must be brought home.
Consequently he refused to give Len anything, and this made the big
newsboy come to the conclusion that Paul must be driven to seek sales
elsewhere. In matters of business newsboys are often as scheming and
unfair as are certain men in higher walks of life. Money is everything
to them, and they will do almost anything to obtain it.

"Wot do yer mean by t'rowin' me down?" cried Len, as he doubled up his
grimy fists, which had not seen soap or water for many a day.

"You know what I mean, Len Snocks," retorted Nelson. "Paul has as much
right to sell papers here as you have."

"No, he haint!"

"I say he has, and he'll sell papers here, too, and you shan't stop
him."

"Won't I?"

"If you try it, you'll run against me again, remember that."

"I've a good mind to give you a lickin' fer t'rowin' me down," blustered
Len, but he made no effort to begin the chastisement.

"If you want to fight, I'm here now," answered Nelson calmly. He
understood fully that Len was as much of a coward as he was of a bully.

Len looked around, to see if there was anybody at hand to give him
assistance. But all the boys were small, and he felt they could not do
much against Nelson, who was known to be strong.

"Yer want to make me lose me trade," he muttered. "I'll fight yer when
de rush is over." And he moved toward the ferry entrance.

"All right, I'll be ready for you any time," called Nelson after him.
"And, remember, leave Paul alone after this."

"Oh, Nelson, how good you are!" cried Paul impulsively. "I don't know
what he wouldn't have done to me if you hadn't come up."

"If he tackles you again let me know, Paul."

"I will."

"How is your mother?"

"She isn't much better. She can just get around our rooms, and that's
all."

"Can she see?"

"Not much. The landlord said she ought to go to the hospital and have
her eyes operated on, but she doesn't want to go and leave me."

"But maybe it would be best for her, Paul."

"Well, I'm willing, Nelson. But how is it you aint selling papers
to-day?" went on Paul curiously.

"I've sold out. What have you got left?" Our hero surveyed the stock.
"Phew! Eighteen! That's a lot."

"Len kept chasing me, so I couldn't sell much," answered the little boy,
with a look of concern on his pale face.

"Give me ten of them," said Nelson, and took that number. "Now you go
over there and I'll stay around here. We ought to get rid of 'em between
us."

"Good for you, Nelson!" cried Paul, and his face brightened.

Soon both were at it, crying their wares with the other boys. Len
Snocks saw the move, and scowled more than ever, but did not dare to
interfere. In half an hour the papers were all sold, and our hero turned
the money over to Paul.

"You ought to have something for selling the ten," said the little
fellow.

"Never mind; you keep the money, Paul. You'll need it, I know."

"Thank you."

"By the way, have you seen anything of Billy Darnley since yesterday
noon?"

"I saw him about two hours ago."

"Here?"

"Yes, he came off the boat from Brooklyn."

"I'm sorry I missed him. Do you know where he went?"

"Went to get some papers, I think. He stopped to talk to Len Snocks for
a few minutes."

"Humph! Did he give Len anything?"

"I think he gave him a quarter."

"I'm sorry I missed him. He stole five dollars from me yesterday--nearly
all I had saved up."

"Oh, Nelson! He ought to be arrested."

"It wouldn't do any good. The police wouldn't believe me, and I haven't
any witnesses, excepting a young lady I don't know."

Len Snocks was leaving the vicinity, and now Nelson hastened after him.
Soon he ranged up beside the big newsboy.

"Len, I want to ask you a question."

"Wot do you want now?" growled Len.

"Where did Billy Darnley go after he came off the ferry?"

At this question a crafty look came into Len Snocks' eyes.

"Find out fer yerself--I haint answerin' questions," he growled.

"Billy stole some of my money yesterday."

"Dat aint none o' my affair, is it?"

"I suppose not. But he gave some of it to you?"

"Didn't give me a cent."

"He was seen to give you money."

"Ha! has dat Paul Randall been a-blabbin'?" cried Len savagely. "I'll
fix him, if he has!"

"You let Paul alone, or it will be the worse for you. Then you won't
tell me where Billy went?"

"I don't know. He didn't tell me nuthin'."

Len Snocks would say no more, and satisfied that it would be time lost
to question him further. Nelson hurried on and made his way back to the
lunch-room.

He was somewhat late, and as soon as he entered Sam Pepper began to
storm at him. The man was in a worse humor than ever, and lashed our
hero with his tongue every time he entered the kitchen.

"Here I am a-breaking my back to make a living, and everything going
wrong!" he muttered. "You ought to have been here an hour ago. I wanted
some more meat from the butcher shop and two dozen more of pies. I think
I'll shut up the place at the end of the week. An honest man can't git
along, no matter how hard he tries. Now look out, or you'll smash those
plates and glasses, and that'll be more money out of my pocket. Hang the
lunch business, anyway!"

But his troubles were not yet at an end. In his ill humor he served a
customer with a steak that was both tough and half burnt. The customer
refused to pay for the meat, and a quarrel ensued which ended in a
fight. Two tables were overturned and the crockery smashed before the
troublesome customer was ejected, and, in the meantime, several other
customers slipped out without paying.

"It's no use, Nelson; I'm going to give it up," growled Sam Pepper, when
it was after two o'clock, and the run of midday trade had come to an
end. "There are easier ways to make a living than by running a
lunch-room."

"Last night you spoke about a good game to make you rich," answered
Nelson curiously, "What did you mean by that?"

"When did I say that?"

"When you came in and went to bed."

"I don't remember it."

"Well, you said it, and you said something about getting me to help
you."

"Did I say anything else?" asked Pepper in some alarm.

"No."

The man drew a breath of relief.

"I must have been a bit off in my head, Nelson. You see I met some old
friends, and they treated to champagne--and I'm not used to that any
more. They make an easy living, they do."

"Perhaps they can help you to something better."

"They won't have to help me--if I've a mind to work as they work."

"What do they do?"

"Oh, they work on the principle that the world owes them a living, and
they are bound to have it."

"Of course they don't beg?"

At this Sam Pepper burst into a loud laugh.

"You're not so green as all that, Nelson."

"Well, what do they do then?" persisted the boy.

"Oh, a number of things! One runs a mail-order business. He is
advertising two things just now. One is a steel engraving of Washington,
indorsed by the government as a true picture of the first President,
mounted on cardboard, all ready for framing, for fifty cents, and the
other is a complete sewing machine for one dollar."

"How can he sell a sewing machine for a dollar?"

"When some fool sends on a dollar for the machine he sends him a needle,
and when another fool sends fifty cents for the steel engraving he sends
him a postage stamp picture of Washington stuck on a bit of cardboard."

"Oh!"

"He's smart, and the law can't get hold of him," went on Sam Pepper.
"Another of the men is selling tips on the races. If his customer wins
he gets a percentage. He gets one fool to bet one way and another fool
to bet the other way, and no matter which wins he gets his share of the
prize."

"I should think he would have a job, looking for fools," said the
newsboy. "Folks ought to know better."

"The world is full of people who want to get something for nothing, and
these men know it. But they don't make much of a pile. That's got to be
made in another way."

"What way?"

"There are lots of ways, Nelson; some good and some bad. Ever been down
in Wall Street?"

"Yes, but I don't know anything of the business there."

"Folks down there gamble in stocks and bonds, and such like. Sometimes
they squeeze a poor man out of everything he's got, but they do it so as
the law can't touch 'em--and there's where they have the advantage over
an East Side gambler, who runs the risk of being arrested if his victim
squeals. But Wall Street aint any better than the East Side, for all
that."

"Some nice gentlemen in Wall Street, though," said Nelson reflectively.

"A high hat don't make an honest man, Nelson; you ought to know that by
this time. They are all thieves and swindlers, and an honest man has no
show against 'em. If you want to be rich, you've got to be like 'em!"
went on Sam Pepper, bringing his fist down on the table at which he sat.
"You can't make anything bein' honest."

To this the newsboy remained silent. He had heard such talk before, so
he was not as much shocked as he might otherwise have been.

"I guess I'll go out and sell some evening papers," he said, after a
pause, during which Sam Pepper seemed to sink into deep thought.

"No, I don't want you to go out; I want to have a talk with you,"
answered Pepper. "There won't be no business for an hour or two, and
I'll lock the door, so nobody can interrupt us. It's got to come sooner
or later, and it might as well come now."



CHAPTER V.

NELSON SPEAKS HIS MIND.


Locking the front door to the lunch-room, Pepper came to the rear of the
place, poured himself a glass of liquor and tossed it off, and then sank
in a chair by the last table.

"Sit down, Nelson," he said.

The boy sat down and gazed curiously at the man before him.
Instinctively he realized that a crisis in his life was approaching. He
felt that the old life was speedily to become a thing of the past.

"Nelson, aint you often wondered who you was?" went on Pepper.

"To be sure I have!" cried the boy. "But you will never tell me
anything," he added bitterly.

"Well, I kept the secret for your own good, my boy."

"How?"

"When I came to New York and settled on the East Side I made up my mind
to lead an honest life and bring you up honestly. I did it, too; didn't
I?"

"So far as I know, yes."

"I did it, but it was hard scratching, and you know it. Many were the
times I didn't know how to turn myself, and if it hadn't been for some
friends helping me, I would have gone under. Those friends were the only
ones I ever knew. They weren't honest, but--well, we'll let that pass.
They helped me, and I aint going back on 'em."

"But what about me?"

"I'm coming to that, Nelson. As I said before, I wanted to bring you up
honestly; for your mother was honest, even if your father wasn't."

"My father!" ejaculated the newsboy. "What was he?"

"He was a good-hearted man, Nelson--a fine-hearted man, who did lots of
good."

"But you said he wasn't honest."

"No, he wasn't, if you must know. He was a burglar, and made his living
by taking from the rich what they didn't deserve to have. He was my
friend, and he was one of the men who helped me when I lost all I had at
the yacht races."

"But--but I don't understand," faltered Nelson. "What was his name?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Is he dead?"

"Yes; he died when you was a little kid not more than three years old.
We both lived in another city then--I won't tell you where. Your father
was shot while entering a house to rob a man who had once robbed him
when he was in business. Your father died in a hospital, and I was with
him. Your mother was dead, and he didn't know what to do with you. I
said I'd take you, and he made me promise to go to sea first and then to
another city and bring you up the best I could. He didn't want you to
know your name, and so I got to calling you Nelson after the English
admiral, and you can sign yourself Nelson Pepper after this, if you want
to."

"Then you won't tell me where I came from?"

"No; excepting that it was a good many miles from here. It wouldn't do
any good to rake up old scores. If your father hadn't died of the shot,
he would have been sent to prison for ten or fifteen years."

"What was the name of the man who shot him?"

"It won't do you any good to know that, either--he's dead and gone,
too."

There was a pause, and the newsboy gave something like an inward groan.
The revelation that Pepper had made was truly a shocking one, and the
boy was so dazed and bewildered he could scarcely think. His father a
burglar, and shot down while in the act of committing a robbery! What a
degradation!

"I've told you all this for a purpose," went on the man. "Now I've got
some more to tell you, if you'll promise to keep your mouth shut."

"What else is there?"

"Will you keep silent if I tell you?"

"Yes."

"And do you promise not to say a word of what I have just told you?"

"Why should I--it wouldn't be anything to my credit," answered Nelson.

"But I want you to promise."

"All right; I promise."

"That's good. I know if you give your word you'll keep it. Now, I've got
a plan in my head to square accounts, so to speak, and git rich at the
same time."

"What plan?"

"Well, you see, it's like this: There's a rich gent lives up near
Central Park. I won't give you his name, but I don't mind telling you
that he's a distant relative of the fellow who shot your father, and he
used to help that other man in his dealings against your father. I don't
know as he remembers your father now, but he's a man you ought to get
square on, anyway."

"How?"

"I'm coming to that, my boy. This man is old and feeble and has
something of an office in his library at home. There is a safe in the
library, but it's old-fashioned and can easily be opened. In that safe
the old man keeps thousands of dollars all the time, for it's too much
for him to go back and forth to the bank, and he aint the one to trust
anybody else."

Sam Pepper paused suggestively and looked Nelson full in the eyes. Then
he began to whistle softly to himself.

"Do you mean that you think I ought to rob that safe?" questioned our
hero.

"You won't have to do the job alone, lad; I'll be on hand to help you."

"But I--I never stole anything in my life."

"It won't be stealing, exactly. That man owes you something. If it
hadn't been for him and his relative your father might have been rich
and never got into any burglary. I have looked the ground over, and the
job will be dead easy. There is a back alley and an iron fence that both
of us can climb over without half trying. Then I can git a diamond
cutter for the window glass, and the rest will be just as easy as wink."

"And if you are caught, what then?"

"We won't git caught, Nelson. The old man has only a niece living with
him, a girl of seventeen or eighteen, and an old housekeeper who is half
deaf. The rest of the help comes in the morning and leaves after
supper."

There was another pause. Nelson sank beside the table, with his face in
his hands. Suddenly he looked at Sam Pepper again.

"Did you say that man had robbed my father--I mean the man who shot
him?"

"Sure he did, Nelson."

"Then perhaps my father wasn't a burglar, after all. Perhaps he was
entering the house to get evidence against the man."

"No, he went in to--er--well, to steal, if you must have it straight."

"Sam Pepper, I don't believe you!"

"Nelson!"

"I don't believe you, so there! You won't tell me my name, or where I
came from, or anything, and you are only trying to make out my father
was a thief so as to get me to turn thief, too."

"I've told you the truth, lad."

"And I repeat I don't believe you. What is more, I won't help you in
your plans of robbery. I've been honest so far, and I mean to remain
honest. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for trying to make me a
thief."

The newsboy had risen to his feet and, as he spoke, his face glowed
with earnestness. Now Sam Pepper sprang up, his features full of baffled
passion.

"How dare you talk to me, you miserable pup?" he roared. "I've a good
mind to thrash you well for this! Haven't I clothed and fed you for
years? And this is what I git for it! I've told you the truth about
yourself, only I didn't paint your father as black as I might, not
wishing to hurt your feelings. He was a burglar, and before he was shot
he served two sentences in prison."

"I don't believe it--and I never will," retorted Nelson, but with
quivering lips. "Where was this? Tell me, and I'll soon find out if it
is true."

"I won't tell you a thing more--unless you promise to help me as you
should."

"I won't help you--and that's the end of it."

"You owe me something for keeping you all these years."

"I don't believe you would have kept me if you weren't paid for it."

"I never received a cent--not a penny. You've got to pay me back
somehow."

"Well, I am not going to do it by stealing," answered Nelson doggedly.

"Then how are you going to do it?"

"I don't know yet."

"I'm going to give this place up soon, and of course the living rooms
will go, too."

"I can find another place to live."

"You want to git out of paying me that five dollars a week, don't you?"
sneered Pepper.

"I can't pay five dollars. But I'll pay what I can. How much do you
think I owe you?"

"A good deal--seeing that I've kept you ten years or longer."

"Didn't my father leave anything?"

"About forty dollars--not enough to keep you three months."

"He hadn't any property?"

"Nothing."

"Well, as I said before, I'll do what I can--when I am able."

"And you won't help me to----" Pepper paused.

"I won't steal--I'll starve first," returned Nelson, and taking up his
hat, he unlocked the door, and walked away from the lunch-room.



CHAPTER VI.

A BOOK AGENT'S TRIALS.


When Nelson left the lunch-room he scarcely knew what he was doing. The
conversation which had occurred had been an important one, but his head
was in such a whirl that just now he could make little or nothing out of
it.

He had no desire to sell papers,--indeed, he had no desire to do
anything,--and all he did was to walk up the street and keep on walking
until he was well uptown. Then he began to cross the city in the
direction of Broadway.

At last he began to "cool off" a bit, and then he went over all that had
been said with care. As he did this he became more and more convinced
that Sam Pepper had not told him the truth concerning his parent.

"He is holding something back," he told himself. "And he has some object
in doing it. He shall never make me a thief, and some day I'll force him
to tell his secret."

"Hullo, Nelson! what brings you up here?"

The question was asked by a young man who carried a flat bag in his
hand. The man was an agent for books, and the boy had met him many times
before.

"Oh, I just came up for a walk," answered our hero. "How is business,
Van Pelt?"

"Poor," answered George Van Pelt, as he set down his bag, which was
heavy. "Haven't made but half a dollar so far to-day."

"That's no better than selling newspapers."

"I don't suppose it is, and you don't have to carry around such a bag as
this, either. But I would have made more to-day if a customer hadn't
tripped me up."

"How was that?"

"There was a young gent living near Central Park named Homer Bulson,
wanted me to get certain French books for him. I got the books, but when
I went to deliver them he refused to take them, saying they were not
what he had ordered."

"Were they?"

"They were. I could make him take them, according to law, but to sue a
man is expensive. But now I've got the books on my hands, and they cost
me over three dollars."

"Can't you sell them to somebody else?"

"I hardly think so. You see, they are books on poisons, and there isn't
much call for that sort of thing."

"Poisons! What did he want to do with them?"

"He said when he ordered them, that he was studying to be a doctor, and
was going to make poisons a specialty."

"It's a shame you can't make him take the books."

"So it is. I suppose I could make him take them, if I wanted to create a
row. But I can't do that. I haven't the cheek."

"I'd make him take them, if I was in your place. Anyway, I'd tell him I
was going to sue him if he didn't pay up. Perhaps that might scare him."

"I was thinking something of doing so. Do you really think it might make
him come down?"

"I know some folks hate to think they are going to be sued. And if he
lives in a fine house he must be pretty high-toned."

"Oh, he is! He's a young bachelor, and lives in fine style, directly
opposite the home of his rich uncle."

"Then I'd try him again, before I'd give up."

"I will. Do you want to come along?" went on George Van Pelt, who hated
a quarrel.

"I might as well. I'm not doing much just now," answered Nelson.

"Of course you haven't given up selling papers?" went on George Van
Pelt, as the two walked along.

"No. But I wish I could get something better to do."

"That's hard these times, Nelson. How much a day can you make at it?"

"From seventy-five cents to a dollar and a quarter. Sometimes I make a
dollar and a half, but that's not often."

"The books used to bring me in from three to five dollars a day. But the
department stores cut the prices now, and soon the whole book-agent
business will be ruined."

"What will you go into then?"

"I don't know. If I had the money I'd start a newsstand--for papers and
books, too."

"That would pay, if you could get hold of the right corner," said our
hero, with interest.

"I know of a good corner on Third Avenue. The man who keeps it now is
old and wants to sell out."

"What does he want for the stand?"

"A hundred dollars. Of course the stock isn't worth it, but the business
is."

"That depends on what he takes in a day."

"He averages seventy-five dollars a week. But it would be more, if he
was able to get around and attend to it."

"A hundred dollars a week would mean about thirty dollars profit," said
Nelson, who was quick at figures. "How much is the rent?"

"Five dollars a week."

"That would leave twenty-five dollars for the stand-keeper. Does he have
a boy?"

"Yes, and pays him three dollars a week."

"Maybe we could buy the stand together, Van Pelt. You know all about
books, and I know about the newspapers. We ought to make a go of it."

"That's so, but----" The book agent looked rather dubiously at our
hero's clothes. "How about the cash?"

"We might save it somehow. I'm saving up for a suit now."

"You need the suit."

"I expected to get it in a few days. But Billy Darnley robbed me of five
dollars, so I've got to wait a bit."

"Well, if we could raise that money we might buy out the stand and try
our luck," continued George Van Pelt, after a thoughtful pause. "I think
we'd get along. How much have you."

"Only a dollar or two now."

"I've got fifteen dollars, and about ten dollars' worth of books."

"Couldn't we get the man to trust us for the stand?"

"He said he might trust me for half the amount he asks, but fifty
dollars would have to be a cash payment."

"We'll raise it somehow!" cried Nelson enthusiastically. The idea of
owning a half interest in a regular stand appealed to him strongly. In
his eyes the proprietor of such a stand was a regular man of business.

The pair hurried on, and at length reached the vicinity of Central Park,
and Van Pelt pointed out the house in which the rich young man who had
refused to take the books lived.

"Perhaps he won't let me in," he said.

"Wait--somebody is coming out of the house," returned our hero.

"It's Mr. Bulson himself," said George Van Pelt.

He hurried forward, followed by Nelson, and the pair met the young man
on the steps of his bachelor abode.

Homer Bulson was a tall, slim young fellow, with light hair and blue
eyes. His face was somewhat weak, but in his eyes was a look full of
scheming cunning. He was faultlessly dressed in the latest fashion, wore
a silk hat, and carried a gold-headed cane.

"Mr. Bulson, I must see you about these books," said George Van Pelt,
coming to a halt on the steps of the stone porch.

"I told you before that I did not wish to be bothered," answered the
young man coldly.

"But you ordered the books, sir."

"I will not discuss the matter with you. Go away, and if you bother me
again I shall call a policeman."

"My friend hasn't done anything wrong," put in Nelson boldly. "You
ordered some books from him, and you ought to pay for 'em."

"What have you to do with this matter?" demanded the rich young man,
staring harshly at our hero.

"This man is my friend, and I don't want to see him swindled," said our
hero.

"Swindled!"

"That's it. You ordered some books on poisons from him, and now you
don't want to pay for 'em. It's a swindle and an outrage. He's a poor
man, and you haven't any right to treat him so."

"Boy, if you speak like that to me, I'll have you put under arrest,"
stormed Homer Bulson in a rage.

"You must take the books," put in George Van Pelt, growing braver
through what Nelson was saying. "If you won't take them, I'll sue you
for the amount."

"Sue me?"

"Yes, sue you."

"And I'll put the reporters on the game," added the newsboy. "They like
to get hold of society notes." And he grinned suggestively.

At this Homer Bulson's face became filled with horror. For more reasons
than one he did not wish this affair to become public property.

"To sue me will do no good," he said lamely.

"Yes, it will," said the book agent. "You have money and will have to
pay up."

"Or else your rich uncle will pay for you," said Nelson, never dreaming
of how the shot would tell. Bulson grew very pale.

"I--I will take the books and pay for them," he stammered. "Not because
I think I ought to take them, mind you," he added, "but because I wish
no trouble in public. Where are the books?"

"Here." And George Van Pelt brought two volumes from his satchel.

"How much?"

"Just what I told you before, Mr. Bulson--five dollars."

"It's a very high price for such small books."

"They are imported from France, remember, and besides, books on
poisons----"

"Give them to me."

The books were passed over, and Homer Bulson drew from his vest pocket a
small roll of bills. He handed over a five to George Van Pelt.

"Now begone with you," he said sourly. "And don't ever come near me
again for another order."

"Don't worry, I won't come," answered the book agent. "You are too hard
a customer to suit."

He pocketed the money and rejoined Nelson on the sidewalk. Then both
started to walk away.

As they did so our hero glanced across the way and saw, in a window of
the house opposite, the young lady who had offered her assistance after
Billy Darnley had robbed him.

She recognized him and smiled, and he promptly touched his hat
respectfully.

Homer Bulson saw the act and so did George Van Pelt, and both stared at
Nelson.

"Whom did you see?" asked Van Pelt, as they walked down the street.

"A lady who once offered to help me," said Nelson. "She was in that
house. She has left the window now."

"Why, that is where that man's rich uncle lives!" exclaimed the book
agent.

"Is it?" cried our hero. "Then perhaps the lady is a relative to him."

"Perhaps."

"What is the uncle's name?"

"Mark Horton. I understood that he was once a rich merchant of
Philadelphia. But he's a sickly old man now. I wanted to sell him some
books, but they wouldn't let me see him."

"I hope that young lady isn't a relative to that Homer Bulson," mused
Nelson. "If he is, he can't be very nice company for her."

"That's true, Nelson."

"You said you tried to sell books there but they wouldn't let you in."

"No, the gentleman was too sick to see me--at least that is what they
said. But perhaps it was only a dodge to keep me out."

"I suppose they play all sorts of tricks on you--to keep you out of
folks' houses," went on the newsboy thoughtfully.

"Sometimes they do. Some folks won't be bothered with a book agent."

"And yet you've got to live," laughed Nelson.

"Yes, all of us have got to live. But lots of folks, especially those
with money, won't reason that way. They'll set a dog on you, or do
worse, just to get rid of you. Why, once I had a man in Paterson accuse
me of stealing."

"How was that?"

"It was the first week I went out selling books. I was down on my luck
and didn't have any clothes worth mentioning."

"Like myself, for instance," interrupted the newsboy, with a laugh.

"If anything my clothes were worse. Well, I was traveling around
Paterson when I struck a clothing shop on a side street. I went in and
found the proprietor busy with a customer, and while I waited for him I
picked up a cheap suit of clothes to examine it. All of a sudden the
proprietor's clerk came rushing out of a back room and caught me by the
arm.

"'You vos goin' to steal dot coat!' he roared.

"'No, I wasn't,' I said. 'I was just looking at it.'

"'I know petter,' he went on, and then he called the proprietor and both
of them held me."

"I reckon you were scared."

"I was, for I didn't know a soul in the town. I said I wasn't a thief,
and had come in to sell books, and I showed them my samples. At first
they wouldn't believe a word, and they talked a whole lot of German that
I couldn't understand. Then one went out for a policeman."

"And what did you do then?"

"I didn't know what to do, and was studying the situation when the other
man suddenly said I could go--that he didn't want any bother with going
to court, and all that. Then I dusted away, and I never stopped until I
was safe on the train and on my way back to New York."

"Did you ever go to Paterson after that?"

"No, I never wanted to see that town again," concluded George Van Pelt.



CHAPTER VII.

A HARSH ALTERNATIVE.


Homer Bulson was a fashionable man of the world. He had traveled a good
deal and seen far more of a certain kind of "high life" than was good
for him, either mentally or morally. He was fond of liquor and of
gambling, and had almost run through the money which an indulgent parent
had left him.

He was alone in the world, so far as immediate members of his family
were concerned, but he had an uncle, Mark Horton, just mentioned, and
also a cousin, Gertrude Horton, who was the ward of the retired
merchant. This Gertrude Horton was the young lady who had offered to
assist Nelson, and who had just recognized our hero from her seat at the
window opposite.

In the fashionable world Homer Bulson cut a "wide swath," as it is
commonly called, but he managed to keep his doings pretty well hidden
from his uncle, who supposed him to be a model young man.

The young man's reason for this was, his uncle was rich and at his
death would leave a large property, and he wished to become heir to a
large portion of what Mark Horton left behind him. He knew his uncle was
a strict man, and would not countenance his high mode of living, should
he hear of it.

Homer Bulson watched Nelson curiously, and then looked across the street
to see if he could catch his cousin Gertrude's eye. But the young lady
was now out of sight.

"How is it that she knows that street boy?" Bulson asked himself, as he
walked into the house to stow away the books he had purchased. "I don't
like it at all--seeing that he was with the man who sold me these books.
I hope he doesn't ever tell her I've been buying books on poisons."

Entering one of his rooms--he occupied several--he locked the door and
threw himself into an easy-chair. Soon he was looking over the books,
and reading slowly, for his knowledge of French was decidedly limited.

"Oh, pshaw! I can't make anything out of this," he exclaimed at last.
"That English book on poisons I picked up at the second-hand book store
is good enough for me. I might as well put these in a fire." But instead
he hid them away at the bottom of a trunk.

With the books on poisons out of his sight, Homer Bulson turned to his
wardrobe and made a new selection of a suit of light brown which his
tailor had just brought to him.

He was putting on the suit when there came a knock on the door.

"Who's there?" asked the young man.

"Mr. Grodell, sir," was the answer.

Mr. Grodell was the agent of the apartment house, and had come for his
rent.

Homer Bulson was behind four months in payments, and the agent was
growing anxious for his money.

"Very sorry, Mr. Grodell, but I am just changing my clothes," said the
spendthrift.

"Then I'll wait," was the answer.

"Better not, it will take some time."

"I am in no hurry, Mr. Bulson," said the agent.

"Oh, pshaw! why does he bother me!" muttered Homer Bulson. "I haven't
got any money for him."

He did not know what to do, and scratched his head in perplexity.

"Come around Saturday and I will pay you in full," he called out.

"You told me you would pay me last Saturday, Mr. Bulson."

"I know I did, but I was disappointed about a remittance. I will surely
have your money this coming Saturday."

"Without fail?"

"Without fail."

"All right, Mr. Bulson. But I must have it then, or else take possession
of the rooms." And with this parting shot the agent departed.

"The impudent fellow!" muttered Homer Bulson. "To talk to me in that
fashion! He shall wait until I get good and ready to pay him!"

Nevertheless, the young man's pocketbook was very nearly empty, and this
worried him not a little.

Several times he had thought of applying to his uncle for a loan, but
each time had hesitated, being afraid that Mark Horton would suspect his
extravagant mode of living.

"But I must get money somehow," he told himself.

At last he was dressed, and then he peered out into the hallway.

The agent had really gone, and satisfied on this point Homer Bulson left
the residence for a stroll on Fifth Avenue.

This occupied over an hour, and then he walked over to one of the clubs
to which he was attached, where he dined in the best of style.

After dinner came a game or two of billiards, and then he took a cab to
his uncle's mansion near the Park.

He found Mark Horton seated in an invalid's chair in the library, and
nearby was Gertrude trying her best to make the elderly man comfortable.

Evidently the elderly man was in a bad humor, for his eyes flashed
angrily as the nephew entered.

The trouble was Mark Horton and his niece Gertrude had had something of
a quarrel. The invalid wished Gertrude to marry her cousin Homer, and
the girl did not desire the match, for she realized what a spendthrift
and generally worthless fellow Bulson was.

Both knew that their uncle had made a will leaving his property divided
equally between them, and Gertrude was almost certain that Bulson wished
to marry her simply in order to gain control of everything.

The girl hated very much to displease her uncle, for she realized what
troubles he had had in the past. A fearful railroad accident had
deprived the man of his beloved wife years before, and shortly after
this happening other trials had come to him, which had broken him down
completely. What these trials were will be revealed as our story
progresses.

"Well, Uncle Mark, how goes it to-day?" asked Homer Bulson, on walking
in.

"Not very well, Homer," was the feeble answer.

"Uncle Mark had quite a bad attack about two hours ago," put in Gertrude
Horton. "I had to send for the doctor."

"Wasn't he here this morning?"

"Yes, but I thought best to have him again," answered the girl.

"That's right."

"The doctor seems to do me small good," put in the invalid, in a feeble
voice. "He doesn't seem to understand my case at all."

"He is one of the best physicians in New York," answered Homer Bulson.

"So you said before, Homer. Well, I doubt if I ever get any better."

"Oh, Uncle Mark!" cried Gertrude, much shocked.

"I seem to be completely broken down," went on the invalid. "At times
the strangest of sinking spells come over me. I feel very, very old."

There was a painful silence, and Gertrude rearranged the pillow behind
the invalid's head.

"Did you see about those stocks to-day, Homer?" went on Mark Horton. "I
had forgotten about them."

"I did, sir."

"And what did the broker say?"

"He urged me to hold on awhile longer."

"And you have them still?"

"Yes, uncle."

"Very well; do as he advises. Some day, when I am stronger, I must
attend to many other business matters."

"Oh, Uncle Mark, don't worry about business," pleaded Gertrude, passing
her arm around his neck.

There was another pause and Mark Horton gazed sharply at Gertrude. Then
he turned to Homer Bulson.

"She won't marry you, Homer--I don't know why," he said.

The face of the young man fell, and he bit his lip.

"Well, I suppose she will do as she pleases," he remarked, somewhat
sarcastically.

"I think I should be allowed to make my own choice," said Gertrude. She
had already refused Bulson several times.

"I can't understand it," said the invalid. "To my mind you are just
suited to each other."

"I do not think so," answered Gertrude.

"And why not?"

"I would rather not say, Uncle Mark."

"You can't have anything against me personally," put in Bulson, with a
scowl.

"But I have!" cried the girl. "You go to the race-track, and drink, and
gamble, and I do not like it."

A stormy scene followed, in which all three in the room took part.
Strange to say, Mark Horton sided with his nephew, for he did not
realize the blackness of Bulson's character.

"You are prejudiced and foolish," cried the invalid at last, turning to
his niece. "You do not wish to please me in anything." And so speaking,
he arose and tottered from the room. Homer Bulson made as if to follow
him, then reconsidered the matter and sank back into a chair. Poor
Gertrude burst into a flood of tears.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE COMBINATION OF THE SAFE.


"Gertrude, you are making a great mistake," said Homer Bulson, after a
pause broken only by the sobbing of the girl.

"Please don't speak to me, Homer," she answered. "I have heard enough
for one day."

"You have no right to blacken my character," he said with assumed
dignity.

"Uncle Mark forced me to speak the truth."

"It was not the truth. But let that pass. Why didn't you tell him you
would marry me?"

"Because I don't want to marry you."

"But you might let him think that you----"

"I am above practicing a deception upon him, Homer."

"Oh, you aren't a saint!" he sneered. "I know why you are so loving to
him--you thought to get all of his money. Now you are trying to blacken
my character, so that you may get all of it, anyway. But the game won't
work."

"I told him what I did simply to let him know why I didn't care to marry
you, Cousin Homer."

"And why are you so opposed to me?"

"I do not like your ways. Isn't that enough? As for Uncle Mark's money,
I trust he will live a long time to enjoy it himself."

"Uncle Mark can live but a short while longer. Anybody can see that. He
is exceedingly feeble."

"You seem to wish his death," replied Gertrude sharply.

"I? No, indeed; I hope he does live. Haven't I done what I could for
him--giving him wines and the like? And he has the best of doctors--on
my recommendation."

"I don't think the wine you gave him is doing any good. He seems to
become weaker after it, instead of stronger."

"Bosh! If he hadn't the wine, he would collapse utterly."

At this the girl merely shrugged her shoulders.

This was not the first time that Homer Bulson and herself had quarreled
over the care their uncle should have. To the girl the retired merchant
seemed to grow unexpectedly weak in spite of all she could do. The
doctor, too, was baffled, and said he had never come across such a
strange case before.

"If you won't marry me, you shall not turn Uncle Mark against me," went
on Bulson sternly. "If you try it, you will repent it as long as you
live."

So speaking, he strode from the room and made after Mark Horton, who had
gone to his private apartment on the second floor.

He found the retired merchant resting in an easy-chair by the window,
his head bowed low.

"Cheer up, uncle," he said, placing his hand on the other's shoulder.
"Let me pour you a glass of wine."

And he walked to a medicine closet in a corner and got out a bottle he
had brought a few days before.

"Thank you, Homer; I will have a little wine," replied the retired
merchant.

The wine was poured out and Mark Horton gulped it down. Homer Bulson
watched him closely, and then turned away his face to hide a sinister
smile.

"I cannot understand Gertrude," said Mark Horton. "I always thought she
preferred you."

"I think she has another person in view," answered Bulson, struck with a
certain idea.

"Another? Who is it?"

"I would rather not say, uncle."

"But I demand to know."

"I cannot tell you his name. But he is a common sort of person. He went
past the house a while ago and she nodded and smiled to him."

"And how long has this been going on?"

"Oh, several months, I dare say. They meet in the evening on the sly.
But please don't tell Gertrude that I spoke of this."

"What does the man do?"

"I am not sure, but I think he is in the theatrical business, when he
has an engagement--something on the variety stage."

"What! My Gertrude the wife of a variety actor? Never, Homer, never!"
groaned Mark Horton. "This is too much! I will speak to her at once!"

"Uncle, you just promised not to let her know----"

"You'll be safe, Homer, never fear. But I won't have this--I'll cast her
out first."

"I suppose she wanted to keep this a secret until after you--that
is----"

"Until after I am dead, so that she can use up my money on her actor
husband," finished Mark Horton bitterly. He suddenly sprang to his feet.
"But she shall marry you, Homer, and nobody else. That is final."

"Pray do not excite yourself too much, uncle. Let the matter rest for a
few days."

"And if I should die in the meantime, what then? No, Homer; delays are
dangerous. I--I--feel as if I cannot last much longer. Who knows but
what this night may prove my last?"

And Mark Horton sank back again in his chair and covered his face with
his hands.

"Uncle, in case anything should happen to you, may I ask what you have
done with your will?" asked Bulson, after a long pause. "Or, perhaps
Gertrude knows about this?"

"Yes, she knows, but you must know, too. Both the old will and the new
one are in the safe in the library, in the upper compartment on the
right side. On the left side are two gold pieces which I brought home
with me when I visited the mint in California."

"Is that all the money there is in the safe?"

"No, there is more gold than that--in a secret compartment at the
bottom. There is a spring to open this compartment on the left side, a
small gilded knob. It is right I should tell you of this, otherwise you
might never find the secret compartment."

"And the combination of the safe?" went on Bulson, more anxiously than
ever.

"The combination is 0, 4, 25, 12, 32, and once around to the left to 0
again. You had better put it down. I have it written on a slip in my
pocketbook."

"Then it won't be necessary for me to put it down," answered the
nephew, but he took good care to remember the combination, nevertheless.

It was now time for Mark Horton to retire, and, the wine having made him
drowsy, he soon forgot his anger against Gertrude and went to sleep.

When Homer Bulson went below he paused in the hallway and glanced
through the doorway into the library.

He saw that Gertrude had left the apartment and that it was empty.

None of the servants were about, and the housekeeper, an elderly lady,
was also nowhere to be seen.

"I wonder if I dare do it so soon?" he muttered to himself. Then he shut
his teeth hard. "I must do something! I have used up my last dollar, and
I can't go around empty-handed. Uncle Mark will never grow strong enough
to know."

Going to the front door he opened it, then slammed it violently and made
a noise as if he was descending the steps. Then he closed the door with
care and stole back into the gloom of the library. It was now after
midnight, a fitting time for the desperate deed this misguided young man
had undertaken.



CHAPTER IX.

A PAIR WELL MATCHED.


After leaving George Van Pelt Nelson felt more like working, and buying
a large supply of evening papers he was soon hard at it, crying his
wares as loudly as possible.

Business proved brisk, and by seven o'clock he had sold out. Then he
went back to the lunch-room.

Sam Pepper met him with a scowl.

"Concluded to come back after all, eh?" he said. "Work piling up on me
and nobody to help. Pitch in, quick, or I'll thrash you good; do you
hear?"

The rest of the evening passed in almost utter silence between them. By
ten o'clock the most of the lunch trade came to an end. At eleven Sam
Pepper began to lock up.

"I'm going out," he said. "An old friend is sick. Maybe I won't be back
till morning. Watch things good while I'm gone."

"Who is sick?" asked our hero.

"None of your business. You mind what I told you, and keep your mouth
closed," growled the lunch-room keeper.

Nelson had noticed a heavy handbag lying in the corner of the back room,
and now he saw Sam Pepper pick the bag up. As the man moved it,
something inside struck together with a hard, metallic sound, as if the
bag might contain tools.

When Sam Pepper went out he wore a big slouch hat and a coat which he
had not donned for years. He usually wore a derby hat, and his general
appearance surprised the newsboy not a little.

"He acts as if he wanted to be disguised," thought the boy. "Something
is up, sure."

Then of a sudden he remembered the talk he had had with Pepper about
robbing an old man--the man who had in some way been connected with his
father's downfall, if Pepper's story was true. Was it possible Pepper
was going to undertake the job that very night, and alone?

"I believe he is!" thought Nelson. "And if that's so, I'll follow him!"

With the boy, to think was to act, and in a few minutes he was prepared
to follow Sam Pepper. The man had locked the front door and taken the
key with him. Nelson slipped out of a rear window and fastened the
window from the outside by means of a nail shoved into a hole in a
corner--a trick he had learned some time before.

When the boy came out on the street he ran up the thoroughfare for a
couple of blocks, and was just in time to see Sam Pepper making his way
up the stairs of the elevated railroad station. When the train came
along Pepper entered the front car, and our hero took the car behind it.
Nelson buttoned up his coat and pulled his hat far down over his eyes to
escape recognition, but Sam Pepper never once looked around to see if he
was being followed.

Leaving the Bowery, the elevated train continued up Third Avenue until
Fifty-ninth Street was reached. Here Sam Pepper got off, and Nelson, who
was on the watch, did the same. The man descended to the street and
walked slowly toward Fifth Avenue. Our hero followed like a shadow. He
was now certain that Pepper was bent on the robbery of the place he had
mentioned that afternoon.

Mark Horton's residence stood on the avenue, but a few blocks below
Central Park. As Sam Pepper had said, there was an alleyway in the rear,
with a small iron fence. Beyond was a small courtyard, and here there
was a balcony with an alcove window opening into the library. Over the
window was a heavy curtain, which the retired merchant sometimes closed
when at the safe, so that curious neighbors might not pry into his
affairs. But the neighbors were now away on a vacation in
Europe--something which Sam Pepper had noted with considerable
satisfaction.

It did not take the man long to climb over the iron fence and on to the
little balcony. Noiselessly he tried the window, to find it locked. But
the catch was an old-fashioned one, and he readily pushed it aside with
a blade of his knife. Then he raised the window inch by inch. At last he
had it high enough, and he stepped into the room, behind the heavy
curtain before mentioned.

Sam Pepper was hardly in the room when something happened to give him a
temporary shock. He heard the scratch of a match, and then a gas jet was
lit and turned low in the room.

"I've put my foot into it," he groaned. "Maybe I had better git out as
fast as I came in."

Cautiously he peeped from behind the curtain, and to his astonishment
saw Homer Bulson approach the safe and kneel down before it. He also saw
that Bulson was alone, and that the doors to the other parts of the
mansion were tightly closed.

"Something is up that's not on the level," he told himself. "This man
don't live here."

Scarcely daring to breathe, he watched Homer Bulson work at the
combination of the safe. To get the strong box open was not easy, and
soon the fashionable young man uttered a low exclamation of impatience.

"I must have it wrong," Pepper heard him say. "Confound the luck! And I
wanted that money to-night, too."

At last the safe came open, and Homer Bulson breathed a sigh of
satisfaction. With trembling fingers he pulled open one of the upper
drawers.

"Found!" he murmured. "I wonder if I have time to read them over, to
make sure they are all right? Uncle is a queer stick and he may have
made some mistake."

He brought some documents forth and began to unfold them. Then he
reconsidered the matter and placed the papers on a chair beside the
safe. In a moment more he had found the gilded knob, pressed upon it,
and opened the secret compartment at the bottom of the strong box.

The sight that met his gaze caused his eyes to glisten. There were
several stacks of ten- and twenty-dollar gold pieces--at least two
thousand dollars in all. Without waiting he placed a large handful of
the coins in the outer pocket of his coat.

"I won't take it all--it won't be safe," he murmured. "I can get more
some other time--if I need it." Then he shut the compartment.

Sam Pepper had seen the gold, and it set his heart to thumping madly.
Here was more wealth than he had seen in many a day--right within his
reach. Why had not the young man taken it all?

"He's chicken-hearted and a fool," thought Pepper.

A second later a big fly, awakened by the swinging of the curtain and
the light, buzzed close to Pepper's ear and caused him to start. At the
same moment Homer Bulson glanced up and caught sight of the other's
face.

"Who--what--who are you?" stammered Bulson, leaping to his feet.

"Hush!" cried Sam Pepper warningly. "Hush, unless you want to wake up
the whole house."

"But who are you, and where did you come from?"

"Never mind about that. Why didn't you take all of the gold from the
safe while you were at it?"

"I--er--what do you know of the gold?" stammered Homer Bulson. He was
pale and confused.

"I saw you open the safe and take it. Is that your uncle's money?"

"Ye--yes."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"What business is that of yours?"

"I am going to make this job my business."

"You look like a burglar."

"Well, if I am a burglar, you won't give me away, for you are a burglar
yourself."

The shot told, and Homer Bulson became paler than before.

"I reckon we might divide up on this job," went on Sam Pepper with a
boldness that was astonishing.

"I don't understand."

"Give me half the gold and I won't say anything about this to anybody."

"And if I refuse?"

"If you refuse, perhaps I'll make it mighty unpleasant for you. I know
you. You are Homer Bulson, the fashionable nephew of Mark Horton, and
the man who expects to come into a good share of his property when he
dies."

"And who are you?"

"I am a man who used to be up in the world, but one who is now down on
his luck. I want you to help me. If you will, I'll help you."

At this Homer Bulson was a good deal bewildered.

"I don't understand you. I am not of your kind, my man."

At this Sam Pepper gave a contemptuous sniff.

"If you aint, you aint any better," he growled. "Let me tell you I know
a thing or two. I didn't come here blindly. I know all about Mark
Horton and his niece, and you--and I know a good deal more--about the
past. You and that girl expect to get his property. Well, maybe you
will, and then, again, maybe you won't."

"And why won't we get his property?" asked Homer Bulson, in deep
interest.

"Hush! not so loud, or you'll have the rest of the house down on us,"
Sam Pepper leaned forward and whispered something into the young man's
ear. "There, how do you like that?"

Homer Bulson fell back as if shot.

"You--you speak the truth?" he faltered.

"I do."

"But after all these years! Impossible!"

"It's true, I tell you, and I can prove it--if I want to. But I'm not
his friend. Now are you willing to make a deal with me?"

"Yes! yes!" groaned the young man. "First, however, you must prove your
words. But that can't be done here. Come to my bachelor apartment,
across the way. There we will be perfectly safe."

"All right. But I must have some of that gold first."

"Well, you shall have some--as much as I took, but no more," concluded
Homer Bulson, and opened the secret compartment again.



CHAPTER X.

GERTRUDE LEAVES HER HOME.


Left to himself in the alleyway, our hero scarcely knew what to do next.

Under ordinary circumstances he would have notified a policeman of what
was going on. But he reflected that Pepper had done him many kindnesses
in the past, and that it was barely possible the man was not doing as
much of a wrong as he imagined.

"I'll wait a while and see what turns up," he soliloquized, and hid
himself in a dark corner, where he could watch not only the library
window, but also the side alleyway leading to the street in front of the
mansion.

Slowly the minutes wore away until Nelson felt certain that Sam Pepper
was going to remain inside all night.

"Perhaps something happened to him," he thought. "Maybe he got a fit, or
somebody caught him."

He waited a while longer, then, impelled by curiosity, approached the
balcony, climbed up, and tried to look into the window of the library.

As he did this the curtain was suddenly thrust aside, and in the dim
light he found himself face to face with Gertrude Horton!

He was so astonished that, for the moment, he did not know what to say
or do. Gertrude was equally amazed. She quickly raised the window.

"What brought you here?" she questioned. "Did you make the noise I heard
a while ago?"

"No, miss. I--er--I just came," stammered our hero. He knew not what to
say.

"But I heard a noise. It was that which brought me downstairs. What are
you doing here?"

"I came to see if--if your home was safe."

"To see if it was safe?"

"Yes. I was on the street a while ago and a man sneaked in here. Is he
around?"

"I saw nobody. But I heard a noise, as I said before. I guess I had
better investigate. Did the man look like a thief?"

"He looked like lots of men," answered Nelson noncommittally.

It must be confessed that our hero's head was in a whirl. What had
become of Sam Pepper? Was it possible that he had robbed the mansion and
made his escape without discovery? And if he was gone, should he expose
the man who, good or bad, had cared for him so many years?

Gertrude was looking around for a match, and now she lit the gas and
turned it up full. She had scarcely done so when her eyes rested on a
ten-dollar gold piece lying in front of the safe.

"A gold piece!" she cried.

"Here is another, miss," returned Nelson, stepping into the room and
picking it up from where it had rolled behind a footstool. "Twenty
dollars! Gracious!"

"Gertrude! What is the meaning of this?"

The voice came from the hallway, and looking around the girl and our
hero saw Mark Horton standing there, clad in his dressing gown and
slippers. His face was filled with anger.

"Oh, uncle!" cried the girl. Just then she could say no more.

"So I have caught you, have I?" went on the retired merchant. He turned
to our hero. "Who are you, young man?"

"I? I'm Nelson, sir."

"Nelson? Is that your name?"

"Yes, sir."

"Fine company you keep, Gertrude, I must say," sneered Mark Horton. "I
would not have believed it, had I not seen it with my own eyes."

"Why, uncle----"

"Don't talk back to me. I know all about your doings. You wish----" The
retired merchant broke off short. "What is that in your hand? A gold
piece, as I live! And this young man has another! Ha! you have been at
my safe!"

Pale with rage, Mark Horton tottered into the room and clutched Gertrude
by the arm.

"Oh, Uncle Mark, let me go!" she gasped in horror.

"To think it has come to this!" groaned the invalid. "My own niece
turned robber! It is too much! Too much!" And he sank into an armchair,
overcome.

"Hold on, sir; you're making a mistake," put in Nelson.

"Silence, you shameful boy! I know her perhaps better than you do, even
though you do come to see her on the sly."

"Me? On the sly?" repeated our hero, puzzled.

"You talk in riddles, uncle," put in Gertrude faintly.

"I know what I am saying. I will not argue with you. How much have you
taken from the safe?"

"Nothing," said Gertrude.

"I haven't touched your safe," added our hero stoutly.

"I will soon see." Mark Horton glanced at the window, which was still
wide open. "Is anybody else outside?"

"I guess not," said Nelson.

Arising with an effort, the retired merchant staggered to the safe and
opened it. Then he opened the secret compartment.

"Gone! At least six hundred dollars stolen!" he muttered. He turned upon
both of the others. "What have you done with that gold?"

[Illustration: "'AT LEAST SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS STOLEN,' HE MUTTERED."]

"Uncle, I have not touched it," sobbed Gertrude.

"This is all I have, and I just picked that up," added our hero and
flung the piece on the table, beside that which the girl had picked up.

"I will not believe it!" stormed Mark Horton, more in a rage than ever.
He turned to Nelson. "You took that money away and then thought to come
back for more. Or perhaps you came back to see Gertrude."

"I am no thief!" cried Nelson. "I never stole in my life."

"You are a thief, and this girl is your accomplice. Stop, did you not go
past the house this afternoon?"

"I did, but----"

"And you saw Gertrude?"

"I saw this young lady, but----"

"As I suspected. You planned this thing."

"Oh, Uncle Mark! what are you saying?" sobbed Gertrude. Her heart was so
full she could scarcely speak. She had always treated her uncle with
every consideration, and to have him turn against her in this fashion
cut her to the quick.

"Gertrude, my eyes are open at last. From to-night you leave me!"

"What, going to throw her out of this house--out of her home!"
ejaculated Nelson. "Sir, I don't know you, but I think you must be off
in your mind."

"I am not so crazy as you imagine. I am sick--nay, I have one foot in
the grave. But this shameless girl shall no longer hoodwink me. As soon
as daylight comes she shall leave this house, and she shall never set
foot in it again."

"But, sir----"

"I will waste no further words on you, young man. Out you go, or I will
call a policeman at once."

"Oh, uncle, don't do that!" burst out Gertrude. "I will go away, if you
insist upon it."

"I do insist upon it. Pack your things at once. If it were not night I
would insist upon your leaving now."

Gertrude looked at him, and then drew herself up with an effort.

"I will go now, I will not wait," she said. "But if ever you need
me----"

"I'll not send for you," finished Mark Horton quickly. "I never want to
see you again." He turned to our hero. "Are you going, or must I call an
officer?" he added harshly.

"I will go," said Nelson. He paused as if wishing to say more, then
leaped through the window and disappeared into the darkness of the
alleyway.

As our hero left the library by the window, Gertrude left by the hall
door. Slowly she mounted the steps to her own room. Once inside, she
threw herself on the bed in a passionate fit of weeping. But this did
not last long. Inside of half an hour she was packing a traveling case
with such things as she absolutely needed.

"I will take nothing else," she told herself. "His money bought them and
they shall remain here."

At last her preparations were complete, and she stole downstairs with
her traveling case in her hand. She looked into the library, to see her
uncle sitting in a heap in the armchair.

"Good-by, Uncle Mark," she said sadly.

"Go away!" he returned bitterly. "Go away!"

He would say no more, and she turned, opened the door to the street,
and passed outside. He listened as she hurried down the steps and along
the silent street. When he could no longer hear her footsteps he sank
back again into the armchair.

"Gone!" he muttered. "Gone, and I drove her away! What a miserable man I
am! What a miserable man!" And then he threw himself down again. He
remained in the armchair for the rest of the night, weaker than ever,
and tortured by an anguish he could not put into words.



CHAPTER XI.

AFLOAT IN NEW YORK.


Once out on the street again, Nelson did not know which way to turn or
what to do. He was bewildered, for the scene between Gertrude and her
uncle had been more than half a mystery to him.

"He suspects her of stealing, but I don't," he told himself bluntly.
"Such a girl, with such eyes, would never steal. He wouldn't think so if
he was in his right mind. I guess his sickness has turned his brain."
And in the latter surmise our hero was partly correct.

Slowly he walked to the end of the block, then, struck by a sudden
thought, came back. If the young lady did really come out, he meant to
see her and have another talk with her.

The newsboy was still some distance from the mansion when, on looking
across the way, he saw the door of the house in which Homer Bulson lived
open, and a second later beheld Sam Pepper come out.

"Gracious--Sam!" he cried to himself, and lost no time in hiding behind
a convenient stoop. Soon Pepper passed by, and our hero saw him continue
on his way along Fifth Avenue until Fifty-ninth Street was reached.

"He's going home," thought Nelson. "I ought to get down there before
him. What will he say if he finds me missing?"

He was now more perplexed than ever. What had Sam Pepper been doing in
the house in which Homer Bulson lived? Had the man robbed that place,
and had he himself made a mistake in regard to the Horton mansion?

"It's too deep for me," he mused. "I'll never get to the bottom of it.
But that young lady--hullo, here she comes, sure enough!"

He stepped behind the stoop again and waited. In a moment Gertrude
passed him. Evidently the darkness and the strange silence frightened
her. When Nelson came out of his hiding place she started back.

"Oh!" she gasped. "Is it you?"

"Yes, miss. I--I was wondering if you would really leave," he answered.

"There was nothing else for me to do."

"He is your uncle?"

"Yes. He is Mark Horton and I am Gertrude Horton, his dead brother's
only child."

"He treated you mighty bad for a brother's child."

"My father was poor and Uncle Mark has taken care of me for years. He
wanted me to marry my cousin, Homer Bulson, and it made him angry when I
refused."

"Homer Bulson!" cried Nelson. "I don't wonder you didn't want to marry
him."

"Do you know my cousin?"

"I've met him. He tried to cheat a friend of mine out of a sale of some
books. He acted the sneak."

"It seems my uncle's heart has been set on this marriage," went on
Gertrude.

"But that didn't give him the right to call you a thief," put in our
hero warmly.

"To be sure it did not. But--but--who are you?"

"I'm Nelson."

"You said that before. What is your real name?"

At this Nelson hung his head.

"I don't know what my real name is, Miss Gertrude. They all call me
Nelson the Newsboy. I live with a man named Pepper. He keeps a
lunch-room on the East Side, and I sell papers for a living. I don't
know where I came from."

"It is too bad. But you are better off than I am--you have a home," she
added, her eyes filling again with tears.

"Don't you worry. I'll help you all I can," said Nelson sympathetically.
"But about this affair of the safe--I can't make head or tail of that."

"Nor can I, Nelson. I came downstairs, having heard some strange noises.
But everything seemed to be all right. Then I looked out of the window
and saw you."

"I saw a man go into the alleyway, back of the house," answered our hero
lamely. "I'll be real truthful with you and tell you that I know the
man, and that he has done lots of good things for me. Well, I thought
the man got into that library window, although it was pretty dark and I
might have been mistaken."

"The window was locked when I went to open it."

"You are certain of that?"

"I am."

"Then I must have made a mistake." And our hero drew a sigh of relief.
Perhaps, after all, Sam Pepper was innocent.

"One thing is sure, some money was gone, and we found those gold pieces
on the floor," went on Gertrude. "Who could have opened the safe?"

"Who knew the combination beside your uncle?"

"Myself--he told me last month--when he had his last bad spell."

"Nobody else--that cousin, for instance?"

"I don't believe Mr. Bulson knew it."

"Then that's what made it look black for you. The safe wasn't forced
open, that's sure. Somebody opened it who knew the combination."

"The money might have been taken some time ago," said Gertrude. "Anyway,
it is gone, and you and I are supposed to be the thieves." She smiled
bitterly. "How strange! and we hardly know each other!"

"And I don't see any way of clearing ourselves," said the newsboy, with
equal bitterness. "But let that drop. What are you going to do? Going to
some friend's house?"

"I have no friends here. You see, we came from Philadelphia, and I am
not much acquainted as yet."

"Then you'll go to Philadelphia? If you wish, I'll carry that bag and
see you to the train."

"No, I'm not going to Philadelphia. I would rather remain in New York,
near my uncle. He may need me some day."

"He's a hard-hearted man!" burst out the newsboy. "I don't see how he
could treat you so mean!"

"It is his sickness makes him so, Nelson; he was never so before."
Gertrude heaved a long sigh. "I must say I really do not know what to
do."

"I know a hotel on Third Avenue, but it's not a very nice place."

"No, I don't wish to go there. If I could think of some friend----"

"Did your uncle send you away without any money?"

"I took only the clothing I needed, nothing more."

"Then I'll give you what I've got," answered Nelson promptly, and drew
out what little money he possessed.

"No; I won't rob you, Nelson. But you are very, very kind."

"It aint any robbery," he answered. "Come, you must take it." And he
forced it into her hand. "I know an old lady who'll take you in," he
continued suddenly. "Her name is Mrs. Kennedy. She's only a fruit and
candy woman, but she's got a heart as big as a balloon. She's a nice,
neat woman, too."

The matter was talked over for a few minutes, and Gertrude consented to
go to the two rooms which Mrs. Kennedy called her home.

These were close to Third Avenue, and late as it was, they boarded a
train and rode down. The building was dark, and Nelson had some trouble
in rousing the old woman.

"To be sure I'll take the lady in, Nelson," said Mrs. Kennedy, when the
situation was partly explained. "Come in, miss, and welcome."

Gertrude was glad enough to enter and drop into a chair, and here our
hero left her, and at once hurried down to the lunch-room with all
speed.

Not wishing to arouse Sam Pepper if he was asleep, he went around to the
rear window, opened that, and crawled through.

To his surprise Pepper was not there.

"I'm lucky, after all," he thought, and undressed with all speed. Hardly
had he crawled into bed when Pepper came in. He lit the gas and looked
at our hero, but Nelson snored and pretended to be fast asleep. Sam
appeared relieved at this, and soon retired. His bag, which he had
brought with him, he placed under his bed, in a corner next to the wall.

The newsboy could not sleep, and from the time he lay down until
daylight appeared he turned and tossed on his cot, reviewing in a
hundred ways all that had occurred. But he could reach no satisfactory
conclusion. The one thing, however, which remained fixed in his mind was
that Gertrude Horton was now homeless, and he felt that he must, in
some measure at least, look out for her.

"I don't suppose I can do much," he thought dismally. "But what I can do
I will, that's certain."

Long before Sam Pepper was stirring Nelson was up and dressed. As he was
going out Pepper roused up.

"Where are you bound?" he asked.

"Going to sell papers."

"You're starting early to-day."

"I've got to hustle, if I want to make any money." And so speaking,
Nelson left the place.

He was soon down at "Newspaper Row," as it is commonly called, that part
of Park Row and Nassau Street where are congregated the offices of
nearly all of the metropolitan dailies. He had not a cent in his pocket,
but this did not bother him. He soon found Paul Randall, who was being
shoved right and left in the big crowd of boys who all wanted to get
papers at once.

"What papers do you want, Paul?" he asked.

The little newsboy told him, and Nelson said he would get them for him.

"And I'd like to borrow a dollar, Paul," he went on. "I had to give up
every cent I had."

"That's too bad, Nelson," replied Paul. "I can't loan you a dollar. All
I've got extra is sixty-five cents. You can have that."

"Then I'll make that do," said our hero.

He took all of Paul's money and started into the crowd, to get papers
for his friend and himself.

He was struggling to get to the front when, on chancing to look to one
side, he caught sight of Billy Darnley, the newsboy bully who had robbed
him of the five dollars.



CHAPTER XII.

NELSON RECOVERS SOME MONEY.


"Billy Darnley!" gasped our hero, in astonishment.

The bully saw Nelson and instantly ducked his head. He, too, was after
newspapers, but now thought it best to quit the scene.

"I didn't t'ink he'd be here so early," he muttered, and pushed to the
rear of the crowd. Once in the open, he took to his heels and dashed
down Frankfort Street in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge arches.

But Nelson was not to be "lost" so readily, and he was out of the crowd
almost as soon as the bully.

"I'm after Billy Darnley!" he shouted to Paul. "Come on!"

There now ensued a race which was highly exciting, even if not of long
duration. Darnley was swift of foot, and the fear of what might follow
lent speed to his flying feet. But Nelson was also a good runner.

At the corner of Rose Street were a number of heavy trucks. Darnley
managed to pass these, but it took time. When our hero came up, the
trucks blocked the street completely.

In and out Nelson dodged among the trucks, between the wheels and under
the very hoofs of the heavy horses. In a twinkle he was clear of the
mass and again making after Darnley, who was now flying toward
Vandewater Street.

At this point there is a large archway under the approach to the
Brooklyn Bridge, and toward this archway the bully directed his
footsteps. But Nelson was now close at hand, and underneath the archway
he succeeded in reaching the big newsboy, catching him firmly by the
arm.

"Lemme go!" growled Billy Darnley. "Lemme go, Nelse, or I'll hammer yer
good."

"Maybe I'll do the hammering," retorted Nelson. "Where's my five
dollars?"

"I aint got no money of yours."

"You have, and I want you to hand it over."

"Aint got it, I say. Lemme go!"

Instead of complying our hero grasped the bully by the throat and ran
him up against the stonework of the arch.

"I want my money," he said sternly. "If you don't give it to me----"

"Let up--yer--yer chokin' me!" gasped Billy Darnley.

"Will you give me the money?"

"No."

The bully struggled fiercely, and so did Nelson. Down went both on the
pavement and rolled over and over. But our hero's blood was up, and he
put forth every ounce of strength he possessed. At last he had Darnley
flat on his back, and then he sat astride of the bully.

"Now will you give up?" he panted. "Or must I hammer you some more?"

"Oh, Nelson! have you got him?" asked Paul, running up.

"Yes, and he's got to give me my money."

"A fight! a fight!" cried some of the boys who began to collect.

"This aint a fight," said Nelson loudly. "He's a thief, and stole five
dollars from me. He's got to give it up."

He caught Darnley by the throat again, and now the bully was only too
glad to give in.

"Let--let up!" he gasped. "Let up!"

"Will you give me my money?"

"I've only got two dollars and ten cents."

"Hand it over."

"Let me up first."

"Not much!"

With something like a groan Darnley brought out the money and passed it
over.

"Now I'm going to search you," went on Nelson, in as determined a voice
as ever.

"No, no!" pleaded Darnley in alarm. He did not like the crowd that was
gathering.

"Yes, search him, Nelse," said a boy named Marks.

"That's right, search him," put in another newsboy, named Wilson. "I
think he stole something from me last week."

In spite of his protestations Billy Darnley's pockets were turned inside
out.

There were brought to light another dollar, which our hero also
pocketed, a pearl-handled pocket-knife, a silver badge, and half a dozen
other articles.

"My knife!" shouted Nat Marks. "Boys, you all know it."

"So it is, Nat," said Frank Wilson. "And this is my badge--the one I won
in the newsboys' competition last month."

The boys took the things, and then gathered around Billy Darnley with
clenched fists. Nelson slipped outside of the crowd, and Paul went with
him.

In vain Billy Darnley tried to clear himself of the other lads. He
struck one boy down, but the others pounced upon him front and rear, and
soon had him again on his back. It looked like a football scrimmage,
but the ball in this case seemed to be the bully's head. For ten minutes
the tussle went on, and when at last the cry of "Cop! cop! run for it!"
arose, Darnley found himself with his nose bleeding, two teeth loose,
and his left eye all but closed. Moreover, his coat was torn to shreds.

"What is the meaning of this?" demanded the policeman.

"They all piled on top of me!" whined Darnley, looking the picture of
misery.

"He's a thief!" exclaimed one of the other boys, but from a safe
distance. "He stole something from three of the boys, he did. He didn't
git nuthin' but what was comin' to him, officer."

"That's right; he ought to be locked up," put in another boy, also from
a safe distance.

"Begone with you!" said the policeman sternly, and gave Darnley a shove.
"If I see any more fighting I'll run you all in," and he walked away,
twirling his club as he did so.

"Oh, me eye!" groaned Darnley, and limped away, a sadder if not a wiser
youth. It was many a day before he dared to show himself in Newspaper
Row again.

"Well, I got back three dollars and ten cents," remarked Nelson, as he
and Paul walked up Frankfort Street, "so I won't need your loan. But,
just the same, I am much obliged." And he passed over the money.

"I wish you had gotten it all, Nelson," said Paul earnestly. "Oh, but
didn't they just pitch into Billy! And it served him right, too."

"Yes, I showed him up in his true colors," returned our hero.

He soon had the papers he and Paul wanted, and then the pair separated,
and our hero hurried over to his old stand on Broadway.

His clothing had suffered considerably from the encounter with the bully
and, though he brushed himself off as best he could, he felt that he
made far from a handsome appearance.

"I must look better than this before I call on Miss Horton," he mused.
"If I don't, she'll take me for a regular tramp."

He wondered if there would be anything in the newspapers about the
robbery in Fifth Avenue, and snatched a few moments to scan several
sheets. But not a word appeared.

"I guess they are too high-toned to let it get into print," he reasoned.
"Well, it's a good thing. I guess it would almost kill Miss Gertrude to
see it in the papers."

When Nelson got back to the lunch-room he found business was poor, and
he expected to see Sam Pepper ill-humored in consequence. On the
contrary, however, Pepper was all smiles, and even hummed a tune to
himself as he waited on his customers.

"Something has happened to tickle him," thought the boy. "Or else he's
got a new plan on hand."

"How is the sick friend--any better?" he asked Pepper.

"Much better, Nelson. And what do you think? He's loaned me money to
turn this place into a first-class café. Don't you think that will pay
better than a common lunch-room?"

"I don't know. I'd rather be in the lunch business than running a
saloon."

"I wouldn't. I want to make money," responded Pepper.

"What are you going to do?"

"Rip out that old show window and put in a new and elegant glass front,
and put in a new bar and buffet. It will be as fine as anything around
here when it's finished."

"I wish I had a friend to loan me money."

"What would you do with it?"

"I'd buy out a good news stand. There's money in that."

"So there is." Sam Pepper mused for a moment. "Maybe my friend will
advance enough for that, too."

"Thank you, but you needn't bother him," said Nelson coldly.

"And why not, if I can get the rocks?"

"I'd rather get the money myself."

"Won't the money be good enough?" demanded Pepper, his face darkening.

"I'd rather know where it came from," returned the boy.

The two were in the kitchen at the time, and Sam Pepper had a frying pan
in his hand.

"See here, Nelson, I'll whack you over the head with this, if you talk
like that!" exclaimed the man, flying into a rage.

"You won't whack me more than once, Sam Pepper."

"Won't I?"

"No, you won't."

"Who is master around here, I'd like to know?"

"You are, but I'm not your slave."

"You talk as if you knew something," went on Pepper, growing suddenly
suspicious.

"Perhaps I do know something," replied the newsboy, and then hurried
into the dining room to wait on a customer who had just entered.

"I'll have it out with you later," muttered Pepper savagely. "If you
know too much, I'll find a way to keep your mouth closed."



CHAPTER XIII.

A QUESTION OF BUSINESS.


Sam Pepper got no chance to talk to Nelson further that day. As soon as
the noon trade was over, our hero hurried off to sell afternoon papers.
This time he went up the Bowery, to where Mrs. Kennedy kept her
fruit-and-candy stand. It was a small stand, and the entire stock was
not worth over ten dollars, but the old woman made enough to keep the
wolf from the door, and she was content.

"I was after thinking you'd come," she said, smiling broadly. "I knew
you'd want to know about the young lady."

"How is she?"

"I left her this morning, sorrowful enough, I can tell ye that, Nelson.
She don't know how to turn. She thinks she might take in sewing, or
something like that, but, bless ye! how much would she make at that?
Why, thim Jews that work night and day hardly make enough to keep 'em
from starving!"

"Yes, I know it, and it's a shame," said the boy. "They get about five
cents for a pair of pants and ten cents for a coat, and some of 'em make
shirts for three and four cents apiece. I don't see how they stand it.
No, she wouldn't earn anything at that."

"I was a-telling her of Gladys Summers, who sells flowers up on
Fourteenth Street and at the theater doors, but she said she didn't want
to go out on the street. She's afraid some of her friends would see her,
I suppose."

"She hasn't any friends--'cepting you and me, Mrs. Kennedy. We've got to
do for her."

"It's little I can offer, Nelson; ye know that well enough. She can stay
under my roof, but to board her----"

"I'll pay her board, until she finds something to do. I'll give you
three dollars a week for keeping her."

"Will ye now? Nelson, you're more than kind-hearted. But where will ye
be after getting the money?"

"I'll earn it," he answered resolutely. "I earn a dollar and over a day
now, and I know I can make it more, if I try real hard."

He soon left the fruit-and-candy stand and started in to sell papers. He
felt that he had a new responsibility on his shoulders, and he
determined to do his best. Soon his efforts began to tell, and by five
o'clock he was sold out, and the day's earnings amounted to a dollar and
thirty-two cents.

"Half for Miss Horton and half for myself," he murmured. "That's the way
it's got to be, after this."

He was soon on his way to the tenement house in which Mrs. Kennedy's
rooms were located. Ascending two flights of stairs, he knocked on one
of the doors.

"Who is it?" came from Gertrude Horton.

"It's Nelson."

"Oh!" And instantly the door was unlocked.

A glance at the girl's face told the boy that she had been crying. More
than this he saw she was far from well, and the hand she gave him was as
hot as fire.

"Oh, Miss Horton, you're sick!" he exclaimed. "What's the matter?"

"I have a severe headache," she answered. "I think it will pass away
soon."

She sank down on a dilapidated lounge, and he took a kitchen chair. He
saw that she trembled from head to foot, and that she had been worrying
ever since he had left her.

"You mustn't worry too much," he said, as kindly as he could. "Mrs.
Kennedy says you can stay here as long as you feel like it."

"But she is poor, Nelson, and I--I haven't any money, excepting what
you gave me, and you must take that back--you need it."

"No, I don't need it, Miss Gertrude. See, I've got a lot of money now. I
collared that thief and made him give up what he had left, over three
dollars--and I've earned the rest selling papers. That's why I didn't
come before. I've fixed it up with Mrs. Kennedy, and you can stay just
as long as you please."

"And you are going to pay her?" cried the girl warmly. "Oh, Nelson! you
are indeed good-hearted. But, no; I must support myself."

"Well, you needn't hurry about it. I can earn enough for both of us just
now--and that's what I am going to do. Why shouldn't I? It was my fault
that your uncle put you out."

"No, Nelson; the fault, if it was a fault, was my own. The matter was of
long standing. Homer Bulson had wished to marry me for a long time, but
I have constantly refused him. Now he has gotten my uncle to side with
him. They expect to bring me to terms, I suppose. More than likely my
uncle thought I would come back to-day, to do as he wishes."

"I wouldn't go back."

"I shall not. I have made up my mind fully. I will support myself, and
Homer Bulson can have Uncle Mark's whole estate, if he wishes it.
Surely, in such a big city as this there is something I can do."

"I wouldn't go at sewing--it don't pay."

"What does pay--that I can do?"

"You might get a position in a store. Or maybe you know how to play the
piano?" went on our hero suddenly.

"I do know how to play. I took instructions for several years, and have
played at private concerts, in Philadelphia."

"Then you can give piano lessons."

"But where can I get pupils?"

"We'll advertise in the papers," went on the newsboy, with some
importance. "I know an advertising man down on the Row. He says anybody
can do business by advertising. I'll ask him about it. Of course you'll
want to give lessons at folks' houses--being as you haven't a piano of
your own."

"Yes," answered Gertrude, and her face brightened greatly. "I could do
that, and I would go cheaply first, to get a start."

"Do you want to put your name in the advertisement?"

"No, have the letters sent to the newspaper offices, and sign the
advertisement----" Gertrude paused in thought.

"Weber," finished Nelson. "That's the name of a swell piano, isn't it?"

"It might be too grand for the folks we wish to reach," said Gertrude.
"Sign it 'Earnest.'"

"And how much will the lessons be?"

"I ought to get at least fifty cents."

"Then I'll tell the advertising man that. Oh, he's a dandy to write the
ads up--makes 'em look like regular bargains!" added the boy
enthusiastically.

Nelson remained at the rooms a while longer, and then hurried to Sam
Pepper's place. To his surprise Pepper had locked up, and on the window
was the sign:


     "_Closed for repairs. Will open as a first-class café in about two
     weeks._"


"He hasn't lost any time in going ahead," thought our hero. "I wonder
where he is?"

"Sam's out of town," called out a bootblack who had some chairs close
by. "Told me to give you this." And he passed over an envelope,
containing a sheet of paper and the store key. On the sheet was written:


     "Am going away for two or three days on business. A man will be
     here at ten o'clock to-morrow morning to measure the place for new
     fixtures. You stay around while he is here. Then you keep the place
     locked up until I get back."


"Gone away for two or three days," thought Nelson. "I wonder what he is
up to now?"

He went inside, and saw at once that many of the old fixtures had been
removed, and that the little kitchen in the rear had been turned almost
inside out. The living apartment, however, was as it had been, excepting
that Sam Pepper had used it for packing purposes, and the floor was
strewn with bits of paper and some excelsior.

"If I'm to stay here, I might as well clean up," thought our hero, and
set to work with a broom. "And then I'll take an hour off and clean and
mend my clothes."

In cleaning up Nelson came across several letters, which were old and
mussed. Whether Sam Pepper had thought to throw them away or not, he did
not know. To make sure, he picked the letters up and looked them over.

"Hullo!" he cried. "Here's more of a mystery."

The letters were addressed to Pepperill Sampson and were signed Mark
Horton. The majority of them concerned some orders for dry goods to be
shipped to various Western cities, but there was one which was not of
that nature. This ran in part as follows:


     "I have watched your doings closely for three weeks, and I am now
     satisfied that you are no longer working for my interest, but in
     the interest of rival concerns. More than that, I find that you are
     putting down sums to your expense account which do not belong
     there. The books for the past month show that you are behind over a
     hundred and fifty dollars. At this rate I cannot help but wonder
     how far behind you must be on the year and two months you have been
     with our house.

     "You can consider yourself discharged from this date. Our Mr. Smith
     will come on immediately and take charge of your samples. Should
     you attempt to make any trouble for him or for us, I will
     immediately take steps to prosecute you. You need never apply to
     our house for a recommendation, for it will not be a satisfactory
     one."


The letter was dated twelve years back, and had been sent to Pepperill
Sampson while he was stopping in Cleveland. Nelson read the
communication twice before he put it away.

Who was Pepperill Sampson? The name sounded as if it might belong to
Sam Pepper. Were the two one and the same person?

"They must be the same," thought Nelson. "Sam was once a commercial
traveler after he gave up the sea, and I've heard him speak of Cleveland
and other Western towns. But to think he once worked for Mark Horton!"
He scratched his head reflectively. "Let me see, what did Sam say about
the man he wanted me to rob? That he had helped the man who had shot my
father. Is there really something in this? And if there is, what can
Mark Horton know about the past?"



CHAPTER XIV.

BULSON RECEIVES A SETBACK.


The mystery was too much for Nelson, and at last he put the letters on a
shelf and finished the cleaning. Then he sat down to mend his clothing,
and never did a seamstress work more faithfully than did this newsboy.
The garments mended, he brushed them carefully.

"There, they look a little better, anyway," he told himself. "And sooner
or later I'll have a new suit."

Having finished his toilet, he walked down to Newspaper Row. The tall
buildings were now a blaze of lights, and many men of business were
departing for their homes. But the newsboy found his friend in his
office, a little box of a place on an upper floor of the _World_
building.

The advertising man had always taken an interest in our hero, and he
readily consented to transact the business gratis. The advertisements
were written out to the boy's satisfaction, and Nelson paid two dollars
to have them inserted in several papers the next day and that following.

"If the young lady is a good teacher, I might get her to give my little
girl lessons," said Mr. Lamson, as Nelson was leaving.

"I know she's all right, sir," answered the boy. "Just give her a trial
and see. She's a real lady, too, even if she is down on her luck."

"Then let her call on my wife to-morrow morning. I'll speak to my wife
about it to-night."

"I will, sir, and thank you very much, Mr. Lamson." And our hero went
off, greatly pleased. Late as it was, he walked up to Mrs. Kennedy's
rooms again. This time the old Irishwoman herself let him in.

"Sure and it's Nelson," she said.

"I've got good news, Miss Gertrude," he said, on entering. "I put the
advertisements in the papers through Mr. Lamson, and he told me that you
might call on his wife to-morrow morning about giving his little girl
lessons."

"Hear that now!" exclaimed Mrs. Kennedy proudly. "Sure, and it takes
Nelson to do things, so it does! It meself wishes I had such a b'y."

"I am very thankful," said the girl. "Have you the address?"

"Yes, here it is, on the back of his business card. I know you'll like
the place, and maybe they can put you in the way of other places."

"Av course," said Mrs. Kennedy. "Before I had rheumatism I wint out
washing, and wan place always brought me another, from some rilative or
friend of the family."

"I will go directly after breakfast," said Gertrude. "And I hope I shall
prove satisfactory."

Knowing the girl must be tired, Nelson did not stay long, and as soon as
he had departed Mrs. Kennedy made Gertrude retire. Happily for the girl
her headache was now much better, and she slept soundly.

In the morning she helped Mrs. Kennedy prepare their frugal repast. As
the old Irishwoman had said, she was troubled with rheumatism, and could
not get around very well. So Gertrude insisted upon clearing the table
and washing the dishes.

"But, sure, and a lady like you aint used to this work," remonstrated
Mrs. Kennedy.

"I mean to get used to it," answered Gertrude. "I mean to fight my way
through and put up with what comes."

Mr. Lamson's home was over a mile away, but not wishing to spend the
carfare Gertrude walked the distance.

She was expected, and found Mrs. Lamson a nice lady, who occupied a flat
of half a dozen rooms on a quiet and respectable side street. She
played several selections, two from sight, which the lady of the house
produced.

"That is very good indeed, Miss Horton," said Mrs. Lamson. "You read
music well. Little Ruth can begin at once, and you can give her a lesson
once a week. Ruth, this is Miss Horton, your new music-teacher."

A girl of nine came shyly forward and shook hands. Soon Gertrude was
giving her first lesson in music. It was rather long, but Ruth did not
mind it. Then Mrs. Lamson paid the fifty cents, and Gertrude went away.

"She's awfully nice," said Ruth to her mamma. "I know I shall like her."

"She is certainly a lady," was Mrs. Lamson's comment. "It is easy to see
that by her breeding."

A new look shone in Gertrude's eyes as she hurried down the street. In
her pocket was the first money she had ever earned in her life. She felt
a spirit of independence that was as delightful as it was novel.

She had already seen her advertisements in two of the papers, and she
trusted they would bring her enough pupils to fill her time. She felt
that she could easily give five or six lessons a day. If she could get
ten or twelve pupils, that would mean five or six dollars per week, and
if she could get twenty pupils it would mean ten dollars.

"I wish I could get the twenty. Then I could help Nelson. He is so very
kind, I would like to do something in return for him," was her thought.

The weather was so pleasant she decided to take a little walk. She did
not know much about the lower portion of the city, and walked westward
until she reached Broadway, not far from where our hero was in the habit
of selling morning papers.

Gertrude was looking into the show window of a store, admiring some
pretty pictures, when she felt a tap on her shoulder, and turning, found
herself face to face with Homer Bulson.

"Gertrude!" exclaimed the young man. "I have been looking high and low
for you! Where have you been keeping yourself?"

"That is my business, Mr. Bulson," she answered stiffly.

"Why, Gertrude, you are not going to be angry at me, are you?"

"Why shouldn't I be angry? Haven't you made enough trouble for me?"

"I haven't made any trouble--you made that yourself," he answered,
somewhat ruffled by her tone.

"I do not think so."

"Uncle Mark is very much upset over your disappearance."

"Does he wish me to come back?" she questioned eagerly.

"No, I can't say that," answered Homer Bulson smoothly. "But he doesn't
want you to suffer. He said, if I saw you, I should give you some
money."

"Thank you, but I can take care of myself."

"Have you money?"

"I can take care of myself; that is enough."

"Why don't you let me take care of you, Gertrude?"

"Because I do not like you, Mr. Bulson. How is Uncle Mark to-day?"

"About as usual. You must have upset him very much. Of course I don't
believe you took any money out of his safe," went on Bulson. "I guess
the guilty party was that young rascal who called on you."

"Nelson is no rascal. He is an honest boy."

"Nelson!" ejaculated the young man. "Is his name Nelson?"

"Yes. You act as if you had met him."

"I--er--no--but I have--have heard of him," stammered the young man.

"He called on you once, I believe, with somebody who sold you some
books."

"I don't remember that. But he must be the thief."

"I tell you Nelson is no thief."

"Thank you for that, Miss Gertrude," came from behind the pair, and our
hero stepped up. "Mr. Bulson, you haven't any right to call me a thief,"
he went on, confronting the fashionable young man.

"Go away, boy; I want nothing to do with you," answered Bulson.
Nevertheless, he looked curiously at our hero.

"I am no thief, but you are pretty close to being one," went on Nelson.

"Me!"

"Yes, you. You tried to swindle a friend of mine out of the sale of some
books you had ordered from him. I call that downright mean."

"Boy, don't dare to talk to me in this fashion!" stormed the young man.
"If you do, I'll--I'll hand you over to the police."

"No, you won't. You just leave me alone and I'll leave you alone,"
answered the newsboy. "And you leave Miss Gertrude alone, too," he added
warmly.

"Gertrude, have you taken up with this common fellow?" asked Bulson.

"Nelson has been my friend," answered the girl. "He has a heart of
gold."

"I can't agree with you. He is but a common boy of the streets,
and----"

Homer Bulson went no further, for Nelson came closer and clenched his
fists.

"Stop, or I'll make you take it back, big as you are," said the boy.

"Then you won't accept my protection?" said Bulson, turning his back on
our hero.

"No. If Uncle Mark wishes to write to me he can address me in care of
the General Post Office," answered Gertrude.

"All right; then I'll bid you good-day," said Homer Bulson, and tipping
his silk hat, he hurried on and was soon lost to sight on the crowded
thoroughfare.

"I hate that man!" murmured Nelson, when he had disappeared.

"I both hate and fear him," answered Gertrude. "I am afraid he intends
to cause me a great deal of trouble."



CHAPTER XV.

BUYING OUT A NEWS STAND.


After the above incident several weeks slipped by without anything out
of the ordinary happening.

In the meantime Sam Pepper's place was thoroughly remodeled and became a
leading café on the East Side--a resort for many characters whose
careers would not stand investigation. The man seemed wrapped up in his
business, but his head was busy with schemes of far greater importance.

He had said but little to Nelson, who spent a good part of his time at
Mrs. Kennedy's rooms with Gertrude. Sam had found the letters and put
them in a safe place without a word, and the boy had not dared to
question him about them. Nor had Pepper questioned Nelson concerning
what the lad knew or suspected.

The results of Gertrude's advertising were not as gratifying as
anticipated; still the girl obtained seven pupils, which brought her in
three dollars and a half weekly. Most of the lessons had to be given on
Saturdays, when her pupils were home from school, and this made it
necessary that she ride from house to house, so that thirty-five cents
of the money went for carfare.

"Never mind," said the newsboy; "it's better than nothing, and you'll
get more pupils, sooner or later."

The boy himself worked as never before, getting up before sunrise and
keeping at it with "sporting extras" until almost midnight. In this
manner he managed to earn sometimes as high as ten dollars per week. He
no longer helped Pepper around his resort, and the pair compromised on
three dollars per week board money from Nelson. The rest of the money
our hero either saved or offered to Gertrude. All he spent on himself
was for the suit, shoes, and hat he had had so long in his mind.

"I declare, you look like another person!" cried the girl, when he
presented himself in his new outfit, and with his hair neatly trimmed,
and his face and hands thoroughly scrubbed. "Nelson, I am proud of you!"
And she said this so heartily that he blushed furiously. Her gentle
influence was beginning to have its effect, and our hero was resolved to
make a man of himself in the best meaning of that term.

One day Nelson was at work, when George Van Pelt came along.

"How goes it, George?" asked the boy.

"Nothing to brag about," returned Van Pelt. "How goes it with you?"

"I am doing very well. Made ten dollars and fifteen cents last week."

"Phew! That's more than I made."

"How much did you make?"

"Eight dollars. I wish we could buy out that news stand. I am sick of
tramping around trying to sell books," went on George Van Pelt. "Last
week I was over in Jersey City, and one woman set her dog on me."

"I hope you didn't get bit," said Nelson with a laugh.

"No, but the dog kept a sample of my pants."

"Have you heard anything more of the stand?"

"The owner says he's going to sell out sure by next week. He told me he
would take ninety dollars cash. He's going away and don't want a
mortgage now."

"Ninety dollars. How much have you got?"

"I can scrape up forty dollars on a pinch."

"I've got fifteen dollars."

"That makes fifty-five dollars. We'll want thirty-five more. How can we
get that amount?"

"I reckon we can save it up--inside of a few weeks, if we both work
hard."

"The man won't wait. There's a party will give him seventy-five dollars
cash right away. He's going to take that if he can't get ninety."

At that moment Nelson caught sight of the familiar figure of a stout
gentleman crossing the street toward him, and ran out to meet the party.

"Good-morning, sir!" he said. "Have some papers this morning?"

"Hullo! you're the boy that saved me from being run over a few weeks
ago," returned the stout gentleman.

"Yes, sir."

"I'll have a _Sun_ and a _Journal_, and you can give me a _Times_, too.
How is business?"

"Good, sir."

"I was in a hurry that day, or I would have stopped to reward you," went
on the gentleman.

"You did reward me, sir."

"Did I? I had forgotten. You see, that fire in Harlem was in a house of
mine. I was terribly upset. But the matter is all straightened out now."

"I hope you didn't lose much."

"No, the loss went to the insurance companies." The stout gentleman
paused. "My lad, I would like to do something for you," he went on
seriously.

"Have you got a job for me?"

"I don't know as I have, just now. But if you need help----"

"I do need help, sir. Are you a capitalist?"

"A capitalist?" queried the man, puzzled. "What do you mean by that?"

"I mean one of those gentlemen that loan money out on business? I've
heard of 'em, down in Wall Street."

"Well, I sometimes loan money out."

"Then I'd like to borrow thirty-five dollars." Nelson beckoned to George
Van Pelt, who had moved off a short distance. "You see, it's this way,"
he went on, and then told about the news stand that was for sale, and
what he and the book agent wished to do.

Mr. Amos Barrow, for such was the gentleman's name, listened
attentively.

"And you think this would be a good investment?" he questioned.

"Yes, it's a good stand," said Van Pelt.

"But you ought to have some money with which to stock up."

"We'll work hard and build it up," said our hero. "I know that
neighborhood well. Old Maxwell never 'tended to business. I'll go
around and get twice as large a paper route as he ever had. And we can
keep plenty of ten-cent paper-covered books, and all that."

"And we can keep things for school children, too," put in George Van
Pelt. "There is a school near by, and many of the children pass the
stand four times a day."

"Well, I'll give you fifty dollars, Nelson," said Mr. Barrow. "That will
help you to buy the stand and give you fifteen dollars working capital."

"You can't give me the money, sir. But you can loan it to me."

"But why won't you let me give it to you?" laughed the stout gentleman.
"Isn't my life worth that?"

"It isn't that, sir. I want to do this in a regular business fashion."

"All right; have your own way, my lad."

"We'll give you a mortgage on the stand," said George Van Pelt.

"Never mind the mortgage. I believe I can read faces, and I'll take the
boy's word," answered Mr. Barrow.

Hauling out a fat pocketbook, he counted out five new ten-dollar bills
and passed them over to our hero.

"There you are," he said. "I would rather you would keep them. But if
not, you can pay the amount back whenever it is convenient." And he
passed over his business card. A few minutes later he hurried on.

"He's a brick!" was George Van Pelt's comment. "Now we can buy the
stand."

"All right," answered Nelson. "But I want to get rid of my morning
papers first."

"Well, I have several books to deliver. I'll do that, and then we can
meet at the stand after dinner."

So it was agreed, and the pair separated.

Business continued good with our hero, and by eleven o'clock he had sold
out. Anxious to look the stand over, he hurried off in that direction.

He found old Maxwell sitting on a soap-box, reading a sporting paper.
The stand was full of dust and the stock much disarranged. Evidently the
owner had lost interest in it.

"I understand you want to sell out," said Nelson.

"I do," answered Maxwell. "Want to buy?"

"I might buy if you sell out cheap enough."

"I want a hundred dollars."

"A hundred? I thought you'd sell out for seventy-five."

"No, I've been asking a hundred. I might knock off ten dollars, though."

Nelson looked the stand over, and asked some questions about the trade
done.

"I'll give you eighty dollars cash," he said, at last.

"Make it ninety."

"No, eighty, and not a cent more."

"When will you take the stand?"

"This afternoon, and I'll pay fifty dollars now."

"All right, you can have it," replied Maxwell.

A bill of sale was drawn up, and Nelson paid the fifty dollars on
account. Then he went off for lunch; first, however, taking an account
of the stock on hand.

"What you take in from now on is mine," he said.

"All right, you shall have it," replied the old stand-keeper.



CHAPTER XVI.

NELSON AND PEPPER PART.


Nelson remained on watch, and as soon as he saw George Van Pelt coming
he headed him off and took him around the corner.

"I've bought the stand," he said.

"Already?"

"Yes. I had a talk with old Maxwell, offered him eighty cash, and he
took me up. So we've saved ten dollars."

"He'll be mad when he learns he might have had ninety."

"He needn't know. Give me your money, and I'll pay him the balance."

So it was arranged, and Nelson went to the stand and closed the deal.
Old Maxwell had taken in thirty-two cents, and this was passed over to
the boy.

"Going to run the stand alone?" queried the old man.

"No, a man is going to help me," said our hero.

"Who is it?"

"George Van Pelt."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" exclaimed old Maxwell. "I thought he wanted the
stand himself."

"He couldn't raise the money. Here he comes now."

Nelson beckoned to Van Pelt, and soon both were hard at work cleaning up
the stand. They talked the matter over and agreed to give old Maxwell a
dollar more, if he would come around for two mornings and explain
whatever proved strange to them.

"Sure, I'll do it," said Maxwell. "I want you to get the best of the man
up on the elevated station and the man on the next block. They are both
mean fellows and don't deserve any trade."

"We intend to hustle and get all the trade we can," said our hero.

It must be confessed that he felt very proud of his situation. He was no
longer a mere newsboy, but a business man, and he felt, somehow, as if
he had grown several inches taller.

"We must have a sign," said Van Pelt. "What will we make it--Van Pelt &
Pepper, Newsdealers?"

"I don't like the name Pepper--for a last name, I mean," said our hero,
scratching his curly head. "Better make it Van Pelt & Company, for the
present." And the next day an oilcloth sign was tacked up proclaiming
the new firm, and notifying all that they dealt in newspapers,
magazines, books, and school supplies. While Nelson tended the stand
George Van Pelt went downtown to a jobbing house and bought some extra
stock. In a few days business was in full blast and prospects looked
very bright.

"I am glad to see you doing well," said Gertrude, on visiting the stand
one Saturday, after giving her music lessons. "It looks quite like a
place of business. It won't be long before you'll have a store."

"We'll have to save up for it," answered our hero.

He wanted the girl to stay a little while, but she could not, for Mrs.
Kennedy was down with rheumatism and was next to helpless.

"She has been very kind to me and I wish to do what I can for her," said
Gertrude.

"Is her stand closed?"

"No, Gladys Summers is running it for her. She has put her flowers in
with the other stock."

"Gladys is good-hearted, too," was Nelson's comment.

Sam Pepper heard of the newsboy's new move two days after the stand was
bought.

"Going into business with George Van Pelt, eh?" he observed, when Nelson
came home that night.

"Yes."

"He's a poor sort. He'll never get rich. He's not slick enough."

"I'm satisfied with him," returned the newsboy briefly.

"What did you take in to-day?"

"A little over nine dollars."

"Phew! that's better than I thought. How much profit?"

"About three dollars and a half above expenses."

"And you git half?"

"Yes."

"Then you ought to pay me more board money."

"I'm paying all it's worth now. I get no more meals, remember--I only
use this place to sleep in."

"Well, that's worth more."

"I'm thinking of getting a room near the stand," went on Nelson, after a
pause.

"What! you want to leave me!" roared Sam Pepper.

"Why not? There is nothing to keep me here. I don't want anything to do
with your saloon."

"That's a nice way to talk to me."

"I can't help it. I hate the saloon, and it's too far to come down here
just to sleep; especially when I have to leave so early in the morning."

"Supposing I don't let you leave?"

To this Nelson made no reply.

"You're a nice son, I must say," went on Sam Pepper. "This is what I git
for raising you."

"I am not your son, Sam Pepper. As for what you've done for me, I'm
willing to pay you for that. You let me leave without any fuss and I'll
give you two dollars a week until the debt is paid."

"Two dollars a week aint much."

"It's all I can afford, with my other expenses."

"Reckon you don't care much for me, any more."

"I never did care for you, and you know it. I don't like drinking people
and the other kind that hang around here. I want to become respectable
and make something of myself."

"Aint I respectable?" roared Pepper, raising his fist in anger. "Say
that again, and I'll knock you down."

"I said that I didn't like the crowd that hangs around here. I'm going
to get out, whether you take up my offer or not."

"Then clear out--and the sooner the better. It's a pity I didn't kick
you out," growled Sam Pepper, walking the floor savagely. "Go! go
to-night!"

"I will," answered our hero.

No more was said, and the boy tied up what little clothing he had in a
newspaper. He was soon ready to depart, and then he faced Pepper again.

"Good-by," he said, holding out his hand. "Let us part friends."

"You've missed it by turning against me," said Pepper, with a strange
look in his eyes. "I might have made you rich."

"How?"

"Never mind now. You can go your way, and I'll go mine. I don't want to
shake hands. Go!" And he turned his back on the newsboy.

"One word more, before I leave," said our hero. "Will you tell me my
right name?"

"I won't tell you anything. If Nelson Pepper aint good enough for you,
you can make the name what you please."

"Then good-by," said Nelson, a little sadly, and in a moment more he was
gone.

It was so late he knew not where to look for a room that night, so
trudged back to the stand. It was entirely inclosed with wooden
shutters, and large enough inside for him to make himself fairly
comfortable, and there he remained until daylight.

"I'm glad to hear you've left Pepper," said George Van Pelt, when he
heard the news. "He's a bad fellow, and getting worse. If you want, you
can get a room in the house next to where I live."

"What will they charge me?"

"You can get a small, but clean, hall bedroom for a dollar a week."

"That will just suit me," answered our hero.

The place was but three blocks away from the stand, and Nelson made the
necessary arrangements that afternoon, during the time when trade was
dull.

Nelson wondered what Pepper had meant by saying he had missed it in
turning against the man. Did Pepper refer to the past, or did he have in
mind what he could leave when he died?

"I don't want a cent of his money," our hero told himself; "but I would
like to solve the mystery of my birth and parentage."



CHAPTER XVII.

A BOLD MOVE.


On the night following Nelson's leave-taking from Sam Pepper's
establishment the keeper of the resort stood behind his bar, doing
business as usual. The place now glistened with glasses and mirrors, but
its so-called beauty was lost to view in the tobacco smoke which filled
every nook and corner.

The lunch tables had given place to little round affairs where the
patrons might drink and play cards, and several of the tables were
filled by a noisy crowd.

Sam Pepper had just gotten rid of two tramps who wished drinks without
paying for them, when he was surprised to see the door open slowly, and
Homer Bulson showed himself.

"Ah! how do you do, Mr. Bulson?" he said cheerily.

"Please don't talk so loud," replied the young man, as he came in and
walked to the rear end of the polished bar.

"All right, if you want it that way. Have a drink?"

"Some whisky!" was the careless answer.

"How are you making out with the girl?"

"Haven't you heard? She has left the house. My uncle cast her out."

Sam Pepper gave a long, low whistle.

"Things seems to be coming all your way," he remarked.

"I don't know about that. Don't you know that Gertrude Horton and Nelson
the Newsboy are friends?"

"I've heard they knew each other."

"They are friends."

"What do you know of it?"

"I met her on Broadway one day, and he came up and wouldn't give me a
chance to talk to her. Do you know where she is now?"

"No."

"Nelson must know. Question him when he comes in, will you?"

"I will--when he comes. He doesn't live with me any longer, you must
remember."

"He doesn't? When did he leave?"

"Yesterday. He and a man have bought out a news stand, and he's going to
live near by."

"You mustn't lose track of him--just yet."

"Trust me for that, Mr. Bulson."

"If you hear anything of Gertrude, let me know at once. If you can help
me, I'll pay you well."

"I'm your man and I'll remember," answered Sam Pepper, and thereupon
Homer Bulson finished his liquor, threw down a quarter dollar, and
started to leave.

"Where can I find you, if you're not at home?" called Pepper after him.

"Generally at the Broxton Club," answered Bulson. "You know where that
is, near Union Square." And as Pepper nodded, he opened the door and
walked away.

After this, business continued brisk for half an hour, when Sam Pepper
found it necessary to go to a back room for some bottles.

Hardly had he left the saloon when the door was opened, and much to the
astonishment of the men at the round tables a young lady, plainly
dressed, stepped in. It was Gertrude.

"I say, that's a fine girl," remarked one of the men, a rounder named
Worden. "She's a new one around here, aint she?"

"Reckon she is," returned another.

"How do you do, miss?" went on the first man, getting up and tipping his
hat.

"Excuse me, sir," said the girl. "Is Mr. Pepper in?"

"Yes, here he comes now," answered Con Worden, and fell back to the
table again, followed by his companion.

"You are Mr. Sam Pepper?" said Gertrude timidly. The general appearance
of the place frightened her.

"That's my name, miss. But you've got the advantage of me."

"I am Gertrude Horton."

Sam Pepper stared at her in the greatest astonishment.

"Well, I'm blowed," he muttered to himself. "This beats the Dutch!"

"I believe you are Nelson's foster father," continued Gertrude.

The café keeper nodded.

"Is he here?"

"Well--er--he aint here yet," answered Pepper, hardly knowing what to
say. "But if you'll sit down he may come soon."

"I--I guess I had better remain outside," said Gertrude, looking around
with much disgust. "You are quite sure he'll come soon? I wish to see
him about Mrs. Kennedy. She has been taken dangerously ill, and I do not
know what to do. Could you send him over to her place when he comes?"

"Better wait for him, Miss Horton. Come, I'll show you into our sitting
room. It's not a grand place, but it's clean and quiet. Come."

He pointed to one of the back rooms, now fixed up as a sitting room. She
hesitated, but before she could resist he caught her by the arm.

"Nobody shall disturb you here," he half whispered. And before she knew
it she was in the sitting room. The gas was turned down, but he turned
it up. Then he went out, closing the door after him. "Nelson must come
in soon," he said.

Gertrude sank down on a chair. Her mind was concerned entirely over the
serious sickness which had suddenly overtaken good Mrs. Kennedy, and
consequently she thought little of herself. But when she heard some
shutters to the window of the sitting room slam from the outside she
leaped to her feet.

"What can that mean?" she cried, and ran to the window. Trying the
shutters, she found them fastened from the outside. At once she crossed
over to the door, to find it locked.

"He has made me a prisoner!" she moaned. Then she knocked loudly on the
door, but nobody came to answer her summons.

In the meantime Sam Pepper, having locked the door and fastened the
window shutters, called Con Worden to him.

"Worden, do you want to earn a quarter?" he asked.

"Well, I should smile," answered the hanger-on eagerly.

"You saw that gentleman who was here a while ago--him with the silk hat
and gold-headed cane."

"Of course I did."

"Go over to the Broxton Club, near Union Square, and see if he is there.
Call for Mr. Bulson. If you find him, tell him to come at once."

"All right," said Con Worden, and hurried off.



CHAPTER XVIII.

IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY.


The Broxton Club was a fashionable resort for young gentlemen who
usually had more money than brains. It was located near the upper side
of Union Square, and the club apartments consisted of a parlor, a dining
and wine room, and a room for card-playing. In the latter apartment
gambling went on at nearly all hours of the day and night.

Reaching the club Homer Bulson found several congenial companions, and
presently sat down to a game of cards. Bets were made, first at a
dollar, then at five, and then at ten and twenty. Bulson had no luck,
and soon lost forty dollars.

"I'm on the wrong side to-night," was his dismal comment, and he went to
the wine room to forget his losses in the flowing bowl.

He had just finished a glass of liquor when a servant came to him.

"A man at the door to see you, sir," said the servant. "Says he has a
private message for you."

Wondering who the messenger could be, Homer Bulson hurried below and
found Con Worden awaiting him.

"You want to see me?" he questioned sharply. He did not like the
dilapidated appearance of the hanger-on.

"Are you the gent that just came from Sam Pepper's place?"

"What if I am?" asked Bulson cautiously.

"He says he wants to see you at once."

"At once?"

"That's it."

"He didn't say what about?"

"No."

"All right; I'll be over as soon as I can get there."

"I'll tell him that."

Homer Bulson expected Worden to make off at once, but the hanger-on did
not budge.

"Well, aren't you going?" asked the young man sharply.

"Certainly, sir; soon as I git paid," said Worden coolly.

"Oh, that's it! What do you want?"

"It's worth a quarter, aint it?"

"I suppose so," answered Bulson carelessly, and passed over a silver
piece.

"Thanks; I'm off now," said Con Worden, and speedily disappeared.

In a few minutes Homer Bulson followed the man, and it did not take him
long to reach Sam Pepper's resort once more.

As he entered he found Pepper in the act of clearing out all the
hangers-on, including Worden, who had just received the quarter promised
to him.

"Well, what is it?" asked Homer Bulson.

"I've got news that I guess will surprise you," was the answer.

"What is it?"

"You want to find your cousin Gertrude."

"I do."

"What will you give me for finding her for you?"

"Oh, I don't know. What do you want?"

"Is it worth a hundred dollars?"

"What, for just finding her?"

"For finding her and putting her in your power."

"Can you put her in my power?"

"Perhaps I can."

"When?"

"Very soon,--if you'll pay the hundred."

"I will," returned Bulson eagerly. "Perhaps you've got her in your power
already," he went on hastily.

"I have."

"Where?"

"Here."

Homer Bulson looked around him and then stared at Pepper in amazement.

"I don't see her."

"She is in my sitting room, under lock and key."

"Back there?"

The café keeper nodded.

"But I can't understand it, Pepper. How did you get her here, and so
soon? You didn't have her when I was here before, did you?"

"Of course not. Right after you went away she came in, looking for
Nelson, because the woman she lives with is very sick. I told her to
wait in the sitting room, and then I locked the door and the window on
her."

"What is she doing now?"

As if in reply to the young man's question there was a loud knock on the
sitting-room door.

"Mr. Pepper! Mr. Pepper!" came in Gertrude's voice.

"She has knocked several times," said Pepper. "But I didn't mind that.
I'm thankful she hasn't begun to kick and scream."

"I must have a talk with her. Now that she finds she is in our power,
perhaps she'll come to terms."

"More than likely."

The door was unlocked, and Sam Pepper allowed Homer Bulson to enter the
room.

"Watch the door, if you don't want her to get away," whispered Sam
Pepper, and the young man winked one eye knowingly.

On seeing her cousin Gertrude fell back in astonishment.

"What, you?" she faltered.

"Yes, Gertrude, I've been looking for you," he answered.

"Where is Nelson?"

"I don't know, and I don't care. I don't see how you can interest
yourself in that young ruffian."

"He is more of a true gentleman than you will ever be, Mr. Bulson."

"You are truly complimentary, Gertrude. But you do not know your own
mind, nor what is best for you. This running away has upset your
judgment."

"I did not run away--I was driven away--and all because of you."

"Then let me set matters right for you."

"Will you do that?" she asked eagerly.

"I promise I will--if you'll only marry me."

"Always the same thing!" she cried, bursting into tears. "I will not
listen. Let me go."

She started for the door, but he placed himself directly in her path.

"Wait a minute. Where do you live?"

"I decline to answer that question."

"I'll wager it is in some low tenement house, among the poorest people."

"I live among poor people, it is true, but they are not low, as you
understand the word."

"Did Nelson Pepper find the place for you?"

"He did."

"Always that boy! You make me angry with your foolishness. Why don't you
come back? I want to share Uncle Mark's fortune with you."

"I have talked all I wish upon the subject."

"How are you to live? You never did any work in your whole life."

"I can work when it is necessary."

"At what?"

"I am giving piano lessons."

"At starvation wages, I presume," he sneered.

"I am making an honest living. Thousands can do no more. Now I demand
that you let me go."

Again she moved toward the door, and again he stood in her path.

"Did you hear what I said?" she cried. "Stand aside!"

"I will stand aside--when we have come to terms," he answered, setting
his teeth. "You shall not leave this house until you have promised to do
as I and your uncle desire."



CHAPTER XIX.

NELSON TO THE RESCUE.


On the same evening that Gertrude visited Sam Pepper's establishment,
Nelson, after closing up, determined to run down and call upon the girl
and tell her about the stand and how well they had done that day.

"She'll be pleased, I know," he told himself. "She wants me to make a
man of myself."

Arriving at the tenement house, he ascended the stairs to Mrs. Kennedy's
rooms and knocked upon the back door. To his surprise Gladys Summers,
the flower girl, let him in.

"Hullo, Gladys! you here?" he said.

"Oh, Nelson! I thought it was Gertrude," answered the flower girl. "Did
you bring her along?"

"Along? I haven't seen her."

"She went over to Sam Pepper's place to bring you here. Mrs. Kennedy is
very sick, and we didn't know what to do."

"I haven't been to Sam's place. I left there yesterday for good. What's
the matter with the old lady?"

"Her rheumatism has got up around her heart, and she's very bad. I think
she ought to have a doctor."

"She shall have one, Gladys. Was Gertrude going to get one?"

"No, she was going to get you to do that. She doesn't know anything of
doctors down here, so she said."

"I'll have one here in a little while," said our hero, and ran down the
stairs, two steps at a time.

Two blocks below the house there was a drug store, and a doctor had his
office upstairs. The physician was in, and listened to what Nelson had
to say.

"I'll go," he said. "But you know my terms to strangers."

"How much will the visit be?"

"A dollar."

"There's your money." And our hero handed it over.

The pair were soon at Mrs. Kennedy's bedside, and after an examination
the doctor wrote out a prescription and Nelson had it filled at the drug
store. The physician said he would call again the following afternoon.

"She's in a bad state," he said. "She has likely had this rheumatism
for years, and her age is against her."

"Don't you think she'll get over it?" asked our hero.

"I think she will. But she may be helpless for many weeks."

"It's hard luck. She hasn't any money."

"Then you had better send her to the hospital."

"No, she shall stay home, if she wants to," said Nelson. "I guess I and
the rest can take care of her. She was always good to me and the
others."

After the medicine had been administered and Mrs. Kennedy was a trifle
easier, Nelson began to grow impatient that Gertrude had not yet
returned.

"I guess I'll go out and hunt her up," he said to Gladys Summers. "Will
you stay here?"

"Yes; I promised to stay all night, Nelson."

Our hero was soon in the street again and making his way rapidly over to
the East Side in the direction of Sam Pepper's resort. It was now late,
but this part of the city was still bustling with life. Yet to our
hero's surprise, when he reached Pepper's place he found it locked up.

"Closed!" he muttered. "This is queer. I wonder where Gertrude went?"

He stood for a moment on the pavement, then went and rapped loudly on
the glass of the door.

For a minute there was no response, then, as he rapped again, Sam
Pepper appeared. His face fell when he lifted a door shade and saw our
hero.

"What do you want now?" he growled, as he opened the door for a space of
several inches.

"Was that young lady over here to find me?" asked our hero.

"Nobody here to see you," answered Sam Pepper gruffly.

"She wasn't? Why, she started for here."

"I haven't seen anybody. Is that all you want?"

"Yes. Why are you shut up so early?"

"I didn't feel very well and thought I'd go to bed and sleep it off,"
answered Pepper smoothly. "I'm going back again. Good-night!"

"Then you haven't seen her at all?" persisted the newsboy.

"Haven't I told you so before? Now, don't disturb me again." And with
this Sam Pepper slammed the door shut and locked it.

Nelson was nonplused, not so much by what Pepper had said as by the
man's manner.

"He wanted to get rid of me in a hurry," he mused. "Somehow, this affair
doesn't look right to me."

While our hero was standing near the curb, speculating upon where next
to look for Gertrude, he was surprised to see Paul Randall come down
the street.

"Why, Paul, how is it you are out so late?" he asked.

"Got stuck on some sporting extras and was bound to sell 'em," answered
Paul. "Say, I hear you've bought out a stand."

"George Van Pelt and I have bought out a stand."

"Hope you make lots of money. If you need a clerk, don't forget me."

"I won't forget you, Paul. We have a boy now who delivers papers for us.
He talks of leaving. If he does, I'll let you know. But, I say, have you
been around here long?"

"Most all the evening."

"You know that young lady who is stopping with Mrs. Kennedy, don't you?"

"Yes. Gladys Summers calls her 'the angel,'" answered Paul readily.
"She's a real lady, aint she, Nelson?"

"She is."

"I saw her go into Pepper's an hour or two ago."

"You did! I was going to ask you if you had seen her. You haven't made
any mistake?"

"Not much! I'd know her in a whole city full--she's so sweet and
beautiful."

"Did you see her come away?"

"No."

"Were you around so you could have seen her?"

"Yes; and I kept my eye on the door for almost an hour. I thought you
might be with her."

"No; Sam Pepper and I have parted for good, Paul. I've got a room
uptown, near the stand. I'd like to know what became of the young lady."

"If she came out, it must have been after I went away."

Paul knew that his mother, who was now getting better, would be anxious
about him, so, without waiting longer, he hurried on. Nelson remained on
the sidewalk, in deep thought.

Presently, as he was looking toward Sam Pepper's resort, he saw a corner
of a curtain lifted and saw the man peer out at him. Then the curtain
was dropped again.

"He's watching me," thought the newsboy. "Something is wrong here, and I
know it. He and that Homer Bulson are friends, and Bulson is bound to
make Miss Gertrude marry him. Perhaps they have hatched up some game
against Miss Gertrude."

Not to make Sam Pepper more suspicious, Nelson walked briskly away, up
the street. But at the first corner he turned, sped down the side
street, and then into the alleyway connecting with the rear of Pepper's
resort.

It took him but a minute to ascertain that the shutters to the rear room
were tightly closed, and held together by a wire bound from one catch to
the other.

The shutters were solid, but near the tops were several round holes, put
there for ventilating purposes.

Looking around our hero discovered an empty barrel, and standing on this
he managed to look through one of the holes into the apartment.

He saw Gertrude sitting on a chair, the picture of misery. The hot tears
were flowing down her cheeks.

The sight went straight to his heart, and without waiting to think of
results, he leaped from the barrel, pulled away the wire, and flung the
shutters open. Then he lifted the window, which had been pulled down,
but not fastened.

Gertrude heard the noise and leaped up in fresh alarm. But when she saw
our hero she gave a cry of joy.

"Oh, Nelson! will you help me?" she gasped.

"Certainly I'll help you, Miss Gertrude," he answered. "What are they
doing--keeping you a prisoner here?"

"Something like that. Mr. Bulson was here and went out to get a coach,
so that he could take me away. Mr. Pepper is on guard in his saloon."

"Just come with me, and you'll be safe."

Gertrude came to the window, and Nelson helped her into the alleyway.
Just as she leaped from the window Sam Pepper unlocked the door and
opened it.

"Stop!" roared the man. "Stop, I say!"

"Don't stop!" said Nelson, and caught Gertrude by the hand. Dark as it
was, the boy knew the narrow and dirty thoroughfare well, and soon led
his companion to the street beyond. Pepper came as far as the window,
and called after them once more, but did not dare to follow further.

[Illustration: "'STOP!' ROARED THE MAN. 'STOP, I SAY!'"]



CHAPTER XX.

THE HOME IN THE TENEMENT.


"Oh, how thankful I am that you came!" exclaimed Gertrude, when she felt
safe once more.

"I'm glad myself," answered Nelson heartily. "But how was it Pepper made
you a prisoner?"

"I went there to find you, because Mrs. Kennedy is so sick. I must get
back to her at once."

"There is no need to hurry." And Nelson told of what he and Gladys had
done for the patient.

Then Gertrude related her story and told how Homer Bulson had said she
must marry him.

"He was going to take me to some place in New Jersey," Gertrude
continued. "I heard him and Sam Pepper talk it over."

"The both of them are a big pair of rascals!" burst out Nelson. "Oh, I
wish I was a man! I'd teach them a lesson!" And he shook his head
determinedly.

"I am afraid Mr. Bulson will find out that I am living with Mrs.
Kennedy, and he'll watch his chance to make more trouble for me," said
the girl despondently. "Oh, why can't he let me alone? He can have my
uncle's money, and welcome."

"We'll all be on guard," answered Nelson. "If he tries to harm you, call
a policeman. Perhaps that will scare him."

Gertrude returned to her home with Mrs. Kennedy, and satisfied that
Homer Bulson would do nothing further that night, the newsboy started to
walk uptown.

But presently he changed his mind and turned his footsteps toward the
East Side. When he reached the vicinity of Sam Pepper's resort he saw a
coach drawn up in front of the place.

Homer Bulson was just coming out of the resort with Sam Pepper behind
him.

"It's too bad," our hero heard Bulson say.

"You're a fine rascal!" cried the boy boldly. "For two pins I'd have you
locked up."

"Here he is now!" exclaimed Bulson. "Pepper, you ought to take him in
hand for his impudence."

"Sam Pepper won't touch me, and you won't touch me, either," cried our
hero, with flashing eyes. "You thought you were smart, Mr. Homer Bulson,
but your game didn't work. And let me tell you something. If you trouble
Miss Horton in the future, she and I are going to put the police on your
track."

"Me? The police!" ejaculated the young man, in horror.

"Yes, the police. So, after this, you had better let her alone."

"Nelson, you talk like a fool," put in Sam Pepper.

"I don't think so."

"What is that girl to you? If you'd only stand in with us, it would be
money in your pocket."

"I'm not for sale."

"Mr. Bulson wants to do well by her. She don't know how to work. If she
marries him, she'll have it easy for the rest of her life."

"But she don't want him, and that's the end of it. I've given you
warning now. If anything happens to her I'll call in the police, and
I'll tell all I know, and that's more than either of you dream of,"
concluded our hero, and walked off.

"He's an imp!" muttered Bulson savagely. "I'd like to wring his neck for
him!"

"I wonder how much he knows?" said Pepper, in alarm. "It was always a
mystery to me how he and the girl fell in with each other."

"He can't know very much, for she doesn't know a great deal, Pepper.
He's only talking to scare us," said Bulson. His uncle had not told him
of the meeting in the library.

"What are you going to do next?"

"Better wait till this affair blows over. Then Gertrude will be off her
guard," concluded Homer Bulson.

After that several weeks slipped by without anything unusual happening.
Gertrude kept on her guard when going out to give piano lessons, but
neither Bulson nor Pepper showed himself.

Gertrude, Gladys, and Nelson all took turns in caring for Mrs. Kennedy,
and the old lady speedily recovered from the severe attack of rheumatism
she had experienced. She was anxious to get back to her fruit-and-candy
stand.

"It's meself as can't afford to be idle at all," she declared. "Sure an'
I must owe yez all a whole lot av money."

"Don't owe me a cent," said Nelson, and Gertrude and Gladys said the
same.

Business with the firm was steadily increasing. The boy who had carried
the paper route had left, and Paul Randall was now filling the place and
doing his best to bring in new trade.

"We'll soon be on our way to opening a regular store," said George Van
Pelt, one day. "We really need the room already."

"Let us go slow," said Nelson. "I know a fellow who had a stand near the
Fulton ferry. He swelled up and got a big store at fifty dollars a
month, and then he busted up in less than half a year. I want to be sure
of what I am doing." And Van Pelt agreed with him that that was best.

Of course some newsboys were jealous of our hero's success, and among
these were Billy Darnley and Len Snocks. Both came up to the stand while
Nelson was in sole charge one afternoon, and began to chaff him.

"T'ink yer big, don't yer?" said Darnley. "I could have a stand like
dis, if I wanted it."

"Perhaps you could, if you could steal the money to buy it," replied our
hero suggestively.

"Dis aint no good spot fer business," put in Len Snocks. "Why didn't yer
git furder downtown?"

"This is good enough for me," said our hero calmly. "If you don't like
the stand, you don't have to patronize me."

"Yer don't catch me buyin' nuthin here," burst out Snocks. "We know
better where to spend our money; don't we, Billy?"

"Perhaps you called to pay up that balance you owe me," said Nelson to
Billy Darnley. "There is a dollar and ninety cents still coming my way."

"Ah, go on wid yer!" growled Billy Darnley, with a sour look. "I
wouldn't have de stand, if yer give it to me. Come on, Len!" And he
hauled his companion away.

Our hero felt that he could afford to laugh at the pair. "I guess it's
a case of sour grapes," he said to himself. "They'd think they were
millionaires if they owned a place like this."

Both Darnley and Snocks were out of money, and hungry, and they were
prowling along the street, ready to pick up anything which came to hand.

"It's a shame Nelse's got dat stand," said Darnley. "He don't deserve it
no more'n I do."

"No more dan me," added Snocks. "It beats all how some fellers strike it
lucky, eh?"

"I wish we could git something off of him," went on the larger bully.

"Off de stand?" queried Snocks.

"Yes."

"Maybe we can--to-night, after he locks up."

"Say, dat would be just de t'ing," burst out the larger boy. "Nobody is
around, and it would be easy to break open de lock. If only we had a
push-cart, we could make a big haul."

"I know an Italian who has one. We can borrow dat."

"Will he lend it?"

"I'll borrow it on de sly."

So a plan was arranged to get the push-cart that night, after the news
stand was locked up and Nelson and Van Pelt had gone away. Billy
Darnley had a bunch of keys in his pocket, and he felt fairly certain
that one or another would fit the lock to the stand.

"Won't Nelse be surprised when he finds de t'ings gone?" said Snocks.
"But it will serve him right, won't it?"

"To be sure," added Darnley. "He's gittin' too high-toned. He wants to
come down out of de clouds."



CHAPTER XXI.

NELSON MAKES A PRESENT.


In some manner of her own Mrs. Kennedy had found out that that day was
Gertrude's birthday, and she had concocted a scheme with Nelson and
Gladys to give her a surprise.

"Sure an' the poor dear deserves a bit av pleasure," said the old
Irishwoman. "This humdrum life is almost a-killin' av her. We'll buy her
a few things, and have a bit av a party supper."

"She shall have my best bouquet," said the flower girl. She loved
Gertrude dearly.

Nelson was in a great state of perplexity concerning what to give
Gertrude. One after another, different things were considered and
rejected.

"You see, she's a regular lady," he said to George Van Pelt, "and I want
to give her something that just suits. Now a common girl would like most
anything, but she's--well, she's different; that's all."

"Most girls like dresses and hats," suggested Van Pelt.

Nelson shook his head.

"It won't do. Her dresses and her hat are better than I could buy.
Besides, I want to give her something she can keep."

"Does she like to read?"

"I guess she does."

"I saw a new book advertised--a choice collection of poems. It's really
something fine--far better than most collections. How would that suit?"

"How much was the book?"

"Two dollars and a half, but we, as dealers, can get it for a dollar and
seventy-five cents."

"Then that's what I'll get. And I'll write in it, 'To Miss Gertrude
Horton, from her true friend Nelson,'" said the boy.

The book was duly purchased, and our hero spent the best part of half an
hour in writing in it to his satisfaction. That night he closed up a
little early and walked down to the Kennedy home with the volume under
his arm.

"Oh, what a splendid book!" cried Gertrude, on receiving it. Then she
read the inscription on the fly-leaf. "Nelson, you are more than kind,
and I shall never forget you!" And she squeezed his hand warmly.

Gladys had brought her largest bouquet and also a nice potted plant, and
Mrs. Kennedy had presented a sensible present in the shape of a
much-needed pair of rubbers.

"Winter will soon be here," said the old woman. "And then it's not our
Miss Gertrude is going to git wet feet, at all!"

The girl was taken quite by surprise, and even more so when Mrs. Kennedy
brought in a substantial supper, which had been cooking on the stove of
a neighbor. To this Nelson added a quart of ice cream from a near-by
confectioner's, and the birthday party was voted a great success by all
who participated.

"You have all been so kind to me," said Gertrude, when they broke up,
"you make me forget what I had to give up."

"Don't ye be after worryin', dear," said Mrs. Kennedy. "'Twill all come
out right in the end."

"I trust so, Mrs. Kennedy. But I ask for nothing more than that I can
earn my own living and keep the friends I have made," answered the girl.

"How many scholars have you now?" questioned Gladys.

"Fourteen, and two more are promised."

"Sixteen is not bad," said our hero, who knew that that meant eight
dollars a week for the teacher.

It was after midnight when the party broke up, and Nelson had to take
Gladys to her home, several blocks away. The flower girl lived with a
bachelor brother, who supported himself and paid the rent. The rest
Gladys had to supply herself.

"I wish I had a regular stand for flowers," she said to Nelson. "I could
make a good deal more, then."

"I'll help you buy a stand some day, Gladys," he replied. "I know a good
place up in your neighborhood."

That was Nelson, helping everybody he could, and that is why he is the
hero of this tale of New York street life.

"If you'll help me I'll pay you back," said the flower girl earnestly.
"You know flowers keep so much better when they are in a glass case,"
she explained.

A light rain was falling when the newsboy at last started for the house
where he roomed. He buttoned his coat up around his throat and pulled
his hat far down over his eyes.

He was almost to his room when, on turning a corner, he saw two big boys
shoving a push-cart along, piled high with goods concealed under some
potato sacking. As the boys passed in the glare of an electric light he
recognized Billy Darnley and Len Snocks.

"Hullo, this is queer!" he murmured. "Where are they going with that
push-cart? I didn't know either of 'em was in the peddling business."

The pair soon passed out of sight, and Nelson continued on his way.
Quarter of an hour later he was in bed and in the land of dreams.

It was George Van Pelt's turn to open up the stand on the following
morning, our hero being entitled to sleep an hour longer than otherwise
in consequence. But hardly had the time for opening arrived when George
Van Pelt came rushing around to our hero's room in high excitement.

"Nelson, what does this mean?" he demanded.

"What does what mean?" asked our hero sleepily.

"All the things are gone from the stand!"

"Gone?"

"Yes, everything--papers, books, pens, pencils, writing pads, ink,
mucilage, everything. It's a clean sweep. Do you know anything about
it?"

"No, I don't," answered Nelson, and now he was as wide awake as his
partner. "When did it happen?"

"I don't know--some time before I got there. One of the padlocks was
broken and the other unlocked. The rascals even took the money drawer,"
went on Van Pelt bitterly.

"That had fifteen cents in it," said Nelson. "I took it in after I made
up the cash for the day."

"Well, we're in a pickle now," groaned Van Pelt. "And just think, we
were insured only day before yesterday."

"But not against burglars," groaned Nelson in return. "If we can't trace
up the stuff, we'll have to lose it."

"But we can't afford to lose the stuff. It was worth sixty dollars if it
was worth a penny."

"Nearer seventy dollars, for I bought some new pads and paper-bound
books yesterday, and they cost seven dollars and a quarter. We must find
the robbers." The newsboy hit his washstand with his fist. "By jinks,
I've got it! I know who robbed us!"

"Who?"

"Len Snocks and Billy Darnley, those newsboys I told you about. I saw
them eying the stand pretty closely, and last night, when I came home
from the party, I saw them on the block below here with a push-cart full
of goods. I thought it funny at the time. They had the stuff covered
with old sacks. I never saw either of them with a push-cart before."

"That certainly is suspicious."

"Have you notified the police?"

"Yes, I told the officer on the beat as I came along. He's going to
send in a report. But if you think those fellows are guilty we had
better go after them without delay. Otherwise they'll sell the stuff and
clear out."

"I think I know where to look for them," said Nelson.

He was soon into his clothing, and he and Van Pelt hurried to the stand,
where they found Paul selling such papers as had come in for the morning
trade.

"It's awful," said the small boy. "Such thieves ought to be placed
behind the bars."

It was decided that Paul should run his route and then tend the stand,
while Nelson and his partner went on a hunt down the Bowery and on the
East Side for Darnley and Snocks.

"I can't say when we'll be back, Paul," said Van Pelt. "But until we
return you must do the best you can." And this the little lad promised.

Our hero knew that Darnley and Snocks lived not far from each other on a
street running toward the East River, and thither he led the way.

"Seen anything of Len Snocks?" he asked of a newsboy he met in the
vicinity.

"Yes, I did," answered the boy. "Saw him early this morning."

"Where?"

"Down by the ferry to Brooklyn."

"Was he alone?"

"No; he had Billy Darnley with him."

"Were they carrying anything?"

"Yes, each had a couple of heavy bundles, about all he could manage."

"Did you see them get on the ferry?" questioned George Van Pelt.

"Saw 'em go into the ferryhouse. They must have gone over," answered the
newsboy.

A few words more followed, and Nelson and Van Pelt hurried to the ferry
and soon found themselves on Fulton Street, one of the main
thoroughfares of Brooklyn.

"Now to find them," said our hero. "I'm afraid it's going to prove a big
job."



CHAPTER XXII.

A DISAPPOINTMENT.


"How shall we strike out?" asked George Van Pelt, as he and our hero
came to a halt under the elevated railroad.

"It's more than likely they'll try to sell those things to some
stationer or at a second-hand store," answered Nelson. "And the chances
are that they'll sell 'em as quick as possible."

"You are right there," answered his partner. "Supposing you take one
side of the street and I'll take the other, and we'll ask at the
different stores."

This was agreed upon, and soon our hero had visited five stores.

Nobody had seen the thieves or knew anything about them.

"It's no use," he thought, and then entered a sixth establishment, kept
by an old man.

"Yes, I saw them," said the old man. "They were here early this morning,
and wanted to sell me the things dog-cheap. But I was suspicious of
them, so I didn't buy."

"Do you know where they went next?"

"One of them said something about taking the elevated train."

"You didn't watch them?"

"No; I was going to, but a customer took my time."

The old man described both Darnley and Snocks, and also some of the
goods offered, so there could not possibly be any mistake.

"I hate thieves," he concluded. "I hope you catch them."

"If we need a witness, will you aid us?" asked Nelson.

"I will."

"Thank you," said Nelson, and left him one of the business cards he and
Van Pelt had had printed.

On the corner he beckoned to his partner and told Van Pelt of what he
had learned.

"We'll ask the elevated railroad gate-keeper below," said Van Pelt.

But at the station they got no satisfaction.

"I came on an hour ago," said the gate-keeper. "The other man has gone
home."

"And you haven't seen 'em?" asked Nelson.

"No. The fact is, so many people come and go we hardly notice anybody."

"That is so," said George Van Pelt, as he and our hero walked away.
"Nelson, I am afraid we are stumped."

"It looks like it," said the newsboy soberly.

"What shall we do next?"

"I hardly know, George. I hate to give up. The stuff we lost cost too
much money."

"Do you suppose either Darnley or Snocks went home?"

"It's possible."

"We ought to visit their homes and make sure."

The matter was talked over for several minutes, and it was finally
agreed that Nelson should visit the homes of the two boys while George
Van Pelt returned to the news stand to relieve Paul.

Billy Darnley lived on the fourth floor of a large rear tenement on one
of the dirtiest streets of the East Side. To get to the place our hero
had to pass through an alleyway filled with rubbish and teeming with
neglected children. Hardened as he was to the rougher side of city life
he could not help but shudder at the sight.

"Poor things! they are a heap worse off than myself," was his thought.

At a corner of the alleyway he ran across a small girl and one several
years older. The little girl was a cripple, and the larger girl was
making fun of her deformity.

"Limpy leg! Limpy leg!" she cried shrilly. "Limpy leg, aint you ugly!"
At this the cripple began to cry.

"Stop that!" called out Nelson. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
This little girl can't help being a cripple. Perhaps some day you'll be
a cripple yourself, and then you won't want anybody to make fun of you."
And at this the big girl fell back abashed.

"She always does that," said the cripple. "She's awful mean."

Nelson asked the girl where Billy Darnley lived, and the girl pointed
out the rooms. Soon the newsboy was knocking on one of the doors to the
apartment.

"Come in," said a rough voice, and Nelson entered, to find himself
confronted by a burly man slightly the worse for the rum he had been
drinking.

"Is this where Billy Darnley lives?" he asked.

"I'm Billy Darnley," answered the man.

"I mean Billy Darnley, the newsboy."

"That's my son. He lives here, but he aint here now. He's out selling
papers."

"Has he been home in the last two or three hours?"

"No."

There was an awkward pause, and the man eyed Nelson curiously.

"What do you want of Billy?" he questioned at last.

"I want to recover some things he stole from my news stand," answered
our hero stoutly.

"Things he stole?" cried Darnley senior.

"Yes."

"Are you sure Billy stole them?"

"Yes--he and another boy named Len Snocks."

"When was this?"

"Last night."

"Humph! Tell me all about it."

Nelson did as requested. Before he had finished Darnley senior gave a
long yawn.

"Hang that boy!" he observed. "He's going from bad to worse. He will end
up on the gallows if he aint careful."

To console himself he got out a black bottle and took a deep drink.
Evidently he was not deeply impressed.

"Have you any idea where Billy is now?" asked our hero.

"No. He'll keep shady, I suppose. I can't help you. Go to the police. If
he gets hung some day it will be his own fault."

The man turned his back on Nelson as if to end the interview. In a
minute more our hero was in the street again.

"A fine father for any boy to have," was his thought. "I reckon one is
about as bad as the other, and perhaps both will end up in the electric
chair."



CHAPTER XXIII.

AN UNSUCCESSFUL QUEST.


From the tenement where Billy Darnley lived Nelson made his way to where
Len Snocks resided.

This home in the tenements was in strong contrast to that of the
Darnleys. There were but three rooms, but each was as clean and bright
as hard work could make them.

A small, trim-looking woman carrying a baby in her arms answered his
knock. This proved to be Mrs. Snocks. In the rooms were several other
children of various ages.

"No, I haven't seen Len since last night," she said, in reply to our
hero's question. "He went off with another boy named Billy Darnley."

"Did he say where he was going or when he would be back?"

"He did not. I am anxious about him, too. He never stayed away all night
before. What do you want of him?"

"He and Billy Darnley robbed my news stand last night."

"Robbed your stand!" Mrs. Snocks grew very pale. "Can this be true?"

"Yes, ma'am, it is." And Nelson gave the particulars once more.

"Too bad!" cried the woman, and, dropping on a kitchen chair, she
covered her face with her apron.

Nelson saw that she was suffering keenly, and felt sorry for her.

"It's that Darnley boy," she said presently. "He is a bad egg and is
leading our Len astray. My husband and I have warned Len time and time
again to let Billy alone; but he won't mind, and Billy leads him into
all kinds of mischief."

"Well, I'm sorry for you, ma'am, but we have got to have our stuff
back."

"How much was it worth?"

"About seventy-five dollars."

"Oh, dear! I'm sure I don't know what to do."

"Is your husband to work?"

"No; he hasn't had any work for several months. Wait; I'll call him."

Mrs. Snocks went to a rear window and called to somebody in the
courtyard below. Soon Mr. Snocks appeared. He was an iron molder, but
looked far from healthy.

"Stole from your stand," he said, after listening to his wife and
Nelson. "This is the worst yet."

"It's Billy Darnley's fault," put in the wife.

"He hasn't any business to go with Billy, Mary. That rascal will lead
him to prison."

"You're right there," said our hero.

"I don't know what to do," went on Mr. Snocks, to Nelson. "I'd square
this up, only I'm out of work, and haven't more than two or three
dollars to my name."

"We have three dollars and twenty-five cents," said the wife. "You can
have that." And she brought out a well-worn pocketbook.

Her manner touched the newsboy to the heart.

"No, I won't take your last cent," he said. "You'll need it for yourself
and the children. Only if you see Len, try to get back the goods or the
money he got for them."

"We'll do that--don't fear," said Mr. Snocks. "And I'll thrash him
everlastingly in the bargain."

No more could be accomplished at the Snockses' home, and soon Nelson was
on his way back to the stand.

"What luck?" questioned George Van Pelt, as soon as he appeared.

"Not much," he answered, and told his story. "We'll never hear from old
Darnley," he added. "But perhaps we'll get something from the Snockses."

"I'm glad you didn't take that woman's last dollar," said Van Pelt.
"We're not as hard up as all that, even if we have been almost cleaned
out."

Fortunately for the partners they had paid all bills promptly since
taking charge of the stand, so their credit was good. On the following
morning Van Pelt went around and explained the situation to several
wholesale dealers, and also to the news company, and succeeded in
getting a fresh supply of goods on thirty and sixty days' time.

"We've got to hustle to make it up," he said.

"Well, I'm in the business to hustle," answered Nelson, with a grim
smile. "I never yet was idle, as far back as I can remember."

"Always sold newspapers?"

"Mostly. Once in a while I blacked boots and carried baggage, but not
very often."

"Are you related to Sam Pepper?"

"I don't think I am."

"Hasn't he ever told you anything about yourself?"

"He has and again he hasn't. He told me some things that I don't believe
are true, George."

"Humph! Well, I wouldn't trust him too much."

"I don't trust him at all, since the time he tried to help Mr. Bulson
against Miss Gertrude."

"It's queer that Bulson is so possessed to marry Miss Horton, when she
doesn't care for him."

"I guess the reason is that Bulson is afraid Mr. Horton will relent and
take Miss Gertrude back, and then she'll come in for half the money,
after all. He is so piggish that he wants to get it all."

"Mr. Horton ought to be told how Bulson is acting."

"Miss Gertrude says he is a strange man and won't believe what anybody
says about his nephew."

"He must be strange, or he wouldn't turn such a nice young lady as Miss
Horton out of doors," said Van Pelt feelingly. He had met Gertrude
several times and was much interested in her.

On the week following Mrs. Kennedy was served with a notice to quit her
apartments, as the tenement was to be torn down. She and Gertrude hunted
up other rooms, not far from Nelson's stand. These were bright and
cheerful and a very great improvement over those vacated.

"And I will feel safer," said Gertrude. "For I fancy Homer Bulson knew
the other home and often watched me going in and coming out."

Gertrude was right in her surmise. Homer Bulson was watching her very
closely and laying his plans to make her his own, in spite of herself.

But when everything was in readiness to make a move, he found to his
chagrin that the rooms were empty and the building was being torn down.

"Hang the luck, anyhow!" he muttered sulkily. "Now where in the world
shall I look for her?"

He questioned several people in the neighborhood, but nobody seemed to
be able to give him any information.

The truth of the matter was Mrs. Kennedy had requested her friends to
say nothing to a gentleman in a silk hat who asked about Gertrude, and
for this reason they were accordingly mum.

"Never mind, I'll find her sooner or later," Bulson told himself. "And
then my next move will surely surprise her."



CHAPTER XXIV.

A DECOY LETTER.


One day Nelson was folding some evening papers at the stand when, on
glancing up, he saw Homer Bulson standing not far away eyeing him
sharply.

"Hullo, what does he want now?" thought our hero.

Bulson waited until several customers had received papers and departed,
and then came closer.

"How is trade?" he asked, in as pleasant a voice as he could command.

"Very good," returned Nelson coolly.

"I presume you do better with the stand than you did selling papers on
the street."

"Much better."

"I am glad to hear it."

To this Nelson made no reply, for he felt certain that Homer Bulson was
playing the part of a hypocrite.

"He wants to find out about Gertrude," he told himself.

"How is Miss Horton making out these days?" went on the young man.

"She is doing nicely."

"Is she working?"

"She gives piano lessons."

"Humph! she can't make much at that."

"She make enough to keep her."

"If she wouldn't be so headstrong she might have a comfortable home
without working."

"She intends to do as she pleases," replied Nelson sharply. "And she
doesn't ask you for advice."

"Where is she living now?"

"You'll have to find that out for yourself."

"Her uncle wants to know."

"Then let him write to her and address the letter to the general
post-office."

"Does she go there for her letters?"

"No; somebody goes for her."

At this Homer Bulson bit his lip in increased vexation.

"What rot all this is!" he cried. "I'm not going to eat her up."

"You're right there," grinned Nelson. "We won't let you. The best you
can do is to leave her alone. If you don't somebody will get hurt."

"Ha! do you threaten me?"

"You can take the warning as you please."

"Boy, you are a fool!"

"If I am, I am too smart a fool to be taken in by you, Mr. Homer
Bulson."

"I want to help Miss Horton."

"You want to harm her, you mean."

"Then you won't tell me where she lives?"

"No. And let me add, if you find out and try to harm her you'll get
hurt."

"Oh, you make me tired," muttered Bulson, and walked away.

Everything seemed to be against the young man, but two days later his
luck--if such it can be called--changed.

He was walking along a fashionable side street, when on chancing to look
ahead he saw Gertrude leave a house and hurry to the corner.

He started to follow her, but before he could reach her she had boarded
a street car and was out of his reach.

Going back to the house he met a girl of twelve coming out on the stone
stoop.

"Good-afternoon," he said politely. "Am I right about seeing Miss Horton
just coming from here?"

"You are," answered the girl. "She's just been giving me a music
lesson."

"Oh, so she gives music lessons here. Does she teach anybody else in
the neighborhood?"

"Yes; she teaches on the block above here and around on the avenue." And
the girl gave the names and addresses.

Homer Bulson made a note of the names and addresses and walked off in
high satisfaction.

"Now to work my little scheme," he said to himself.

Two days later he left New York and took a train at Jersey City for
Lakewood, down in New Jersey.

At the fashionable resort he managed to find a house on the outskirts of
the town. It was owned and kept by an old woman, who was more than half
deaf.

To this old woman, whose name was Sarah Higgins, Bulson told a long
story of a cousin who was a little crazy and who wanted absolute rest.

"She is harmless, excepting for her tongue," said Bulson. "I would like
to bring her here for several months. If you will take her, I will give
you twenty-five dollars a week for your trouble."

Sarah Higgins was a natural-born miser, and she readily consented to
take the young lady and watch her.

"I've taken care of them as is out of their mind before," she said. "I
know how to treat 'em."

Homer Bulson's next move was to write a long letter to Gertrude. This
letter was signed with the name of a fashionable lady of society, and
ran as follows:


     "DEAR MISS HORTON: Perhaps you will be surprised to receive this
     from me, a stranger, but Mrs. Jackson has been speaking to me about
     you, and the good lessons you are giving her daughter Belle.

     "My husband used to know your father well, and the pair were warm
     friends, and he joins me in making this offer to you.

     "I have three children, two girls and a boy, and I wish to obtain a
     music-teacher for them who will not only give lessons, but also
     take a personal interest in the little ones. There is nobody here
     at Lakewood who is suitable, and I wish to know if we cannot
     arrange to have you come down every Wednesday or Thursday? I will
     pay your carfare and give you five dollars per week for the
     lessons. Of course you can also have lunch with me.

     "I think you will find this a good opening for you, and perhaps we
     can get you more pupils here. Please call upon me next Wednesday
     afternoon, and we can then talk it over and complete arrangements.

     "Yours truly,
     "MRS. JAMES BROADERICK."


The letter came as a complete surprise to Gertrude, and she scarcely
knew what to make of it.

Of course, as was natural, she felt much pleased. A trip to Lakewood
each week would be delightful, and five dollars would add quite
something to her income.

The letter reached her on Tuesday morning, so she had not long to
consider it. That noon she met Gladys and told her she was going to
Lakewood on business the following morning, on the early train.

"Lakewood!" cried the flower girl.

"Yes. What makes you look so surprised, Gladys?"

"I didn't think you'd leave New York."

"I shall only be gone for the day. There is a lady there who wants me to
give lessons to her three children."

"Oh!"

"She will pay well, and the trip each week will be quite an outing."

"It will be cold traveling this winter, I'm thinking."

"Lakewood is a famous winter resort now. The hotels are fine, so I've
been told."

"Does the lady live at a hotel?"

"No; she has a private cottage near by--so her letter says."

"Well, I wish you luck," said Gladys, and so the pair parted.



CHAPTER XXV.

MARK HORTON RELENTS.


After having mailed the letter to Gertrude from Lakewood, Homer Bulson
returned to New York to complete his plans for the future.

Evening found him at his uncle's mansion, as smiling as ever, with
nothing to betray the wicked thoughts which were in his mind.

Mr. Mark Horton had changed greatly. He was very feeble, his face was
pinched, and his hair was fast growing white.

He had had two doctors waiting upon him, but neither of them had been
able to make him well.

His malady baffled all their science, and despite their most carefully
administered medicines he grew steadily worse.

"I cannot understand the case," said one physician to the other. "I was
never so bothered in my life."

"It is certainly strange," answered the other. "I shall make a report on
the case before the fraternity. Ordinarily this man should grow better
quickly. He has no organic trouble whatever."

As Mark Horton grew more feeble he longed for Gertrude, remembering how
she had ministered to him day and night.

"How goes it, uncle?" asked Homer Bulson, as he entered the room in
which Mark Horton sat in an easy-chair.

"I am very weak, Homer. I don't think I shall ever be better. It is not
because I fear death, for I have little to live for. But Gertrude----"
He did not finish.

"She treated you badly, uncle, after all you had done for her."

"I am afraid that I was the one that was to blame."

"You? You were too indulgent, that was the trouble. She used to have her
way in everything."

"Have you heard anything of her yet, Homer?"

"I think she went to Boston."

"To Boston? Do you know if she had much money?"

"I do not."

"Did she go alone?"

"I believe not. That actor got a position with some traveling company,
and I think she went with the company, too."

"It is too bad! I do not wish her to throw her whole life away in this
fashion. I wish she were here. Won't you write to her?"

"I would if I had the address."

"But you can find out where the theatrical company is, can't you?"

"The company went to pieces after visiting Boston."

"Then she must be in want," groaned Mark Horton. "If you cannot write to
her, you can at least advertise for her in the Boston papers."

"I'll do that, if you wish it."

"I do, Homer. Tell her to return--that all will be forgiven. I am fairly
dying to see the child again."

At this latter remark Homer Bulson drew down the corners of his mouth.
But the dim light in the room hid his features from his uncle's gaze.

At this moment the servant came to the door.

"The nurse is here," she said.

"Oh, all right!" exclaimed Bulson. "Send her up."

"The new nurse," said Mark Horton wearily. "They simply bother me. Not
one of them does as well as did Gertrude."

Presently a middle-aged woman came in, dressed in the outfit of a
trained nurse. She bowed to both men.

"You are the nurse Dr. Barcomb said he would send?" said Homer Bulson,
as he eyed her sharply.

"Yes, sir."

"What is your name, please?"

"Mrs. Mary Conroy."

"As the doctor sent you, I suppose it is all right. You have had
sufficient experience?"

"Plenty, sir; plenty! What is the matter with the gentleman?"

"Nervous debility."

"That is too bad. I nursed one patient with it."

"Did he recover?" questioned Mark Horton, with a slight show of
interest.

"He did, sir."

"Then there may be hope for me, Mrs. Conroy?"

"Certainly there is hope," put in Homer Bulson, with a hypocritical
smile.

"I'll do my best by you, sir," said Mrs. Conroy pleasantly.

"Thank you."

"You had better give my uncle a little wine," put in Bulson. "He needs
it as a tonic."

"I do not care much for the wine," said Mark Horton. "It does not seem
to strengthen as it should."

"You would be weaker still if you didn't have it, uncle."

The wine was brought and the retired merchant took a small glass of it.

"Won't you drink with me, Homer?" asked the invalid.

"Thank you, uncle, but I bought this especially for your own use, and
you must have it all."

A private conversation, lasting the best part of an hour, followed, and
then Bulson took his leave.

When Bulson was gone Mrs. Conroy came in again, having been to the room
assigned to her by the housekeeper. She found the retired merchant
sitting with his chin in his hands, gazing moodily into the small grate
fire which was burning before him.

"Is there anything I can do for your comfort, Mr. Horton?" she
questioned sympathetically.

"I don't know," he returned, with a long drawn sigh.

"Perhaps I can read the paper to you?" she suggested.

"No; I don't care to listen. I am tired."

"Would you like to retire?"

"Not yet. I cannot sleep."

"Have you any medicine to put you to sleep, sir? I must ask the doctor
all particulars to-morrow."

"He has given me some powders, but they do not help me. At times my
brain seems to be on fire while my heart is icy cold."

"Let me shake your pillows for you." She did so, and tried to make him
otherwise comfortable.

"Thank you, that is better," he remarked, as he sank back and closed his
eyes. "It is hard to be alone in the world."

"You are alone then."

"Almost. Mr. Bulson, who was just here, is my nephew. My wife is dead,
my son gone, and my niece, who lived with me up to a few months ago, has
left me."

"It is too bad."

"In one way it is my own fault. I drove my niece from my house by my
harshness. I sincerely wish she was back."

"If it was your fault, as you say, why not send for her?"

"I do not know where to send. Mr. Bulson heard she went to Boston, and
he is going to advertise for her in some Boston papers. Poor Gertrude!"

"That was her name?"

"Yes, Gertrude Horton. She was my brother's child. I wanted her to marry
my nephew, and we had a bitter quarrel, and after that there was a
robbery, and--but I am satisfied now that Gertrude was innocent."

"Why, it seems to me I've heard something of this before!" exclaimed the
nurse. "The story came to me through a friend who knows an old woman who
keeps a fruit-and-candy stand on the Bowery. She said the girl was
driven away from home because her uncle wanted her to marry a man she
didn't want, and because the uncle thought she had robbed his safe--she
and a boy who happened to call at the house about that time."

"It must be my Gertrude!" said Mark Horton. "And did she marry that
actor fellow?"

"He wasn't an actor. He's a newsdealer--keeps a stand with a man,
somewhere uptown; and he's not old enough to marry."

"And the girl--what of her?"

"I heard she was supporting herself by teaching the piano."

"Is it possible! Do you know where she is?"

"I don't know. But I think I can find out."

"Then you must do so--to-morrow morning," returned Mark Horton.
"Gertrude may still be in New York! Pray Heaven she will come back to
me!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

NELSON ON SHIPBOARD.


Nelson was tending the stand on the morning following the conversation
just recorded, when suddenly Paul Randall came running up, all out of
breath.

"I just saw Billy Darnley," gasped the little newsboy, when able to
speak.

"Where did you see him?" questioned Nelson quickly.

"Right straight across town, on the East River. He was talking to the
captain of a big schooner named the _Victory_. I guess he was wanting to
ship in her."

"Tend the stand, Paul, and I'll go after him," said Nelson, and leaped
outside. Soon he was making his way toward the East River with all
possible speed.

When he came in sight of the docks half a dozen vessels met his view,
all with their bows stuck far over into the street. Of a sailor standing
near he asked which was the _Victory_.

"There she is," answered the tar, pointing with his sunburnt hand.
"Want to ship?"

"Not much!" laughed Nelson. "I want to keep another fellow from
shipping."

"Then you'll have to hurry, for the _Victory_ is going to sail putty
quick."

Nelson was soon picking his way across the dock where the big schooner
lay. Merchandise was on every hand, and on turning a pile of this he
suddenly found himself face to face with Billy Darnley and a burly man
dressed in a sea suit.

"So I've got you at last, have I?" cried Nelson, as he grasped Darnley
by the arm.

"Lemme go!" howled the bully, in great alarm. "Lemme go, Nelson!"

"Not much! I'm going to hand you over to the police," was Nelson's firm
answer.

"I won't go!"

"What's the trouble?" demanded the nautical-looking man curiously.

"He's a thief, that's the trouble," answered our hero.

"It aint so. I never stole nuthin' in my life," retorted Darnley
sulkily. "He's down on me, and he's always tryin' to git me into
trouble."

"I am telling the truth," said Nelson. "He's got to go with me."

"I won't go!" roared the bully.

For a moment the face of the seafaring man was a study. His name was
Grabon, and he was part owner and captain of the _Victory_.

"Darnley has signed articles with me, for a trip to the West Indies and
Brazil," he said.

"Well, he can't go to the West Indies and Brazil. He's going to the
lock-up," returned Nelson firmly.

"What is he guilty of?"

"Of two robberies, so far as I know. He once robbed me of some money,
and only a short while ago he robbed a news stand belonging to me and
another party."

"Humph! What did he rob you of--half a dozen newspapers?" sneered
Captain Grabon. "If he did, you shan't keep him ashore on that account.
I am short of hands as it is, and must sail by the tide to-day."

"The trouble was all over ten newspapers," said Billy Darnley, quick to
take up an idea that had come to him. "He says I stole 'em, but I
didn't."

"I won't listen to such nonsense." Captain Grabon shoved Nelson back.
"Let my man go."

"I won't!" exclaimed our hero.

"You will!" put in Billy Darnley, and wrenching himself free, he ran
along the dock toward the _Victory_ and clambered aboard the vessel.

"You're going to get yourself into a whole lot of trouble!" ejaculated
Nelson to the captain.

"You clear out!"

"Not much--not until I've caught that thief."

As quickly as he could, our hero ran toward the ship and clambered
aboard after Darnley. For the moment he had lost sight of the bully, but
now he saw him peering out from behind the mainmast. At once a chase
ensued.

[Illustration: "OUR HERO RAN TOWARD THE SHIP AND CLAMBERED ABOARD."]

In the meantime Captain Grabon came on board, and going quickly to his
mate, he ordered the lines flung off and the boat towed out into the
stream.

Around and around the deck flew Darnley, with Nelson after him. Then the
bully leaped down the companion-way steps and into the cabin. Undaunted,
our hero followed, and presently the pair found themselves at the end of
a narrow passageway.

"Now I've got you!" panted Nelson. "You shan't get away from me again."

"I won't go!" howled Billy Darnley desperately. "I'm booked for this
trip to sea."

"Well, a sea trip might do you some good, Billy, but you are not going
to take it just yet What did you do with the stuff you stole from the
stand?"

"Didn't steal anything from the stand."

"Yes, you did--you and Len Snocks. Van Pelt and I know all about it. You
got to give up the goods, do you hear?"

"I aint got nuthin," growled Darnley.

He tried to break away again, and a hand-to-hand tussle ensued.
Presently both boys went down and rolled over. As they did this Nelson's
head struck an iron projection, and he was partly stunned. Before he
could recover the bully was on his feet once more.

"Take that!" roared Darnley, and gave Nelson a cruel kick in the side. A
kick in the head followed, and with a groan our hero was stretched out
insensible.

By this time Captain Grabon was coming below to see what was going on.
He met Darnley in the cabin.

"Hold on!" he cried. "Where are you going?"

"On deck," answered the bully, but did not add that he wanted to go
ashore.

"Where's the other boy?"

"I knocked him down."

Darnley was about to move on, but the captain would not allow it.

"You stay here for the present," he said. "I want to investigate this."

"I'm going on deck," growled the bully.

"What!" roared the captain. "Why, you monkey, don't you know you are now
under my orders?"

At this Darnley fell back, aghast.

"Under your orders?"

"Certainly. And you mind me, or I'll have you rope-ended well."

Still holding fast to Darnley, he forced his way to the narrow passage,
and here saw Nelson still lying motionless. He gave a low whistle.

"So this is your game," he said. "You must have hit him hard."

"I did," answered the bully, telling the falsehood without an effort.

"This may be serious. Help me carry him into the cabin."

Alarmed, Darnley did as requested, and our hero was placed on a lounge.
There was a big lump on Nelson's forehead, and this the captain made
Darnley bathe with some water from an ice-cooler in the corner.

It was nearly an hour before our hero came to his senses, for the kicks
from the bully had been severe. He sat up, completely bewildered.

"Where am I?" was the first question he asked himself. Then he stared
around him, to behold a negro sitting near, reading a newspaper.

"Hullo!" he said feebly. "What place is this?"

"Dis am de fo'castle of de _Victory_," was the negro's reply.

"The fo'castle of the _Victory_?" repeated Nelson, puzzled. "Where--who
placed me here? And who put this rag on my head?"

"Cap'n Grabon had you carried here. You had a row wid one of de new
hands. Don't you remember dat?"

"Certainly I remember it," answered Nelson, and sat up. His head ached
severely. "Who are you?"

"My name am Puff Brown. I's de cook ob de boat."

"Oh! And where is Billy Darnley?"

"De feller you had de fight wid?"

"Yes."

"He's on deck, learnin' how to become a sailor."

"I want him arrested. He's a thief."

So speaking, Nelson staggered to his feet and made for the doorway of
the forecastle. When he got on deck he stared around him in amazement.
The dock had been left behind, and around the ship were the blue waters
of New York Bay.



CHAPTER XXVII.

DOWN THE NEW JERSEY COAST.


"My gracious, we've sailed!"

The words came with a groan from Nelson. They were no longer at the dock
in New York, but on the sea. What was to be done next?

"They are not going to carry me off!" he told himself, and rushed aft.

"Hullo! so you've got around again," sang out Captain Grabon, on
catching sight of him.

"Yes, I've got around, and I want to know what this means."

"What what means, lad?"

"Why did you carry me off?"

"You carried yourself off. I told you we were about to sail. You had no
business to come on board."

"I want to go ashore."

To this the captain made no answer.

"Where is Darnley?" went on our hero, and began to look around. Soon he
espied the bully helping some sailors trim one of the sheets.

"Here, you stay where you are," cried Captain Grabon, as Nelson started
forward, and he caught our hero by the arm. "We are on the sea now, and
I am master here, and I don't propose to allow you to interfere with any
of my men."

"I told you I want to go ashore," insisted Nelson.

"Well, I'm not going to stop my vessel for every monkey like you who
gets himself in a pickle. You can go ashore--when we make a landing, not
before."

"When will that be?"

"Keep your eyes open, and you'll soon find out."

The captain of the _Victory_ turned away, leaving Nelson much nonplused.
To tell the truth, our hero's head ached so hard he could think of
little else. He walked over to a pile of rope and sat down.

"I hope they land soon," he thought dismally. "I don't want to get too
far from home. I wonder what George Van Pelt thinks of my absence?"

An hour slipped by, and soon the _Victory_ was well on her way down the
bay and heading outside of Sandy Hook. The air was cool and bracing, and
under any other conditions the newsboy would have enjoyed the sail very
much.

But by noon he began to grow alarmed again. Instead of putting in, the
ship was standing still further from shore.

"See here, this doesn't look as if you were going to land soon," he said
to one of the sailors who happened to pass him.

"Land soon?" repeated the tar. "That we won't, lad."

"Well, when will we land?"

"Not afore we get to the West Indies, I reckon."

"The West Indies!" And Nelson leaped up as if shot. "You don't mean it."

"All right; ask the cap'n." And the sailor sauntered off.

The captain had gone to the cabin, and thither Nelson made his way
without ceremony.

"You told me you were going to land soon?" he cried.

"No, I didn't tell you anything of the kind," answered Captain Grabon,
with a leer. "I told you to keep your eyes open, and you'd soon find
out what we were going to do."

"I was told you wouldn't land until you reached the West Indies."

"That's right too."

"I don't intend to go with you to the West Indies."

"All right, lad; as you please."

"You have no right to carry me off like this."

"As I said before, you carried yourself off. You came aboard my vessel
without my permission, and you engaged in a row with one of my hands.
Now you must suffer the consequences."

"Then you intend to take me to the West Indies with you?"

"I will, lad; but you must work your passage, as soon as you're over
being knocked out."

"It's a shame!" cried Nelson indignantly. "I shan't submit."

"You can do nothing. You are on my ship, and I am master here. If you
have any row to settle with Darnley, you can settle it when we land.
I've told him, and now I tell you again, I won't have any more
quarreling on board."

"You are not fair," pleaded our hero, half desperately.

"I know what I'm doing. Now get back to the fo'castle with you, and
remember, to-morrow you take your place with the crew." And so speaking,
Captain Grabon waved the lad away.

Nelson returned to the deck with a heavy heart. Had the shore been
within a reasonable distance he would have leaped overboard and risked
swimming, but land was far away, a mere speck on the western horizon.

At noon Nelson messed with the crew, and feeling hungry he ate his full
share of the food, which was not as bad as might be supposed. He was not
allowed to go near Darnley, and the bully was wise enough to keep his
distance.

Slowly the afternoon wore along. The breeze remained good, and having
passed Sandy Hook, the _Victory_ stood straight down the New Jersey
coast.

"Might as well learn the ropes, sooner or later," said one of the
sailors to Nelson, as he lounged up.

"I don't want to learn," was the ready answer. "I wasn't cut out for a
sailor. City life is good enough for me."

"And I can't stand shore life at all. Queer, aint it? The minit I'm
ashore I'm in trouble and wanting to go to sea again."

"What kind of a man is this Captain Grabon?"

"Hard to please, lad. You'll have your hands full with him. Better learn
your duty at once, and save trouble."

"I shall not do a hand's turn on this ship."

"Didn't you sign articles with him?"

"I did not. But that other young fellow did."

"But how came you here?"

"I followed that other fellow on board. He's a thief, and I was after
him."

"Did he rob you?"

"He did. I wanted to hand him over to the police when we were on the
dock, but Captain Grabon interfered. I suppose he didn't want to lose
the hand."

"That's the truth--we are short, as it is. Well, now you are on board,
what do you intend to do?"

"I don't know." Nelson looked the sailor straight in the eyes. "Can I
trust you?"

"You can, my lad. If it's as you say, I'm sorry for you."

"If you'll help me to escape I'll give you all the money I have in my
pockets--two dollars and a half."

"How can I help you?"

"Didn't I see you steering a short time ago?"

"You did."

"When will you steer again?"

"In a couple of hours."

"Then, if you get the chance, steer close to some other boat, will you?
I mean some small craft that belongs along this shore."

"And if I do, what then?"

"I'll jump overboard and trust to luck to have the other boat pick me
up," explained Nelson.

The two talked the plan over, and at last the sailor agreed for the two
dollars to do as our hero desired--providing the opportunity arose. He
insisted upon Nelson keeping the remaining fifty cents.

"I won't clean you out, lad," he said. "And I sincerely trust all goes
well with you." And they shook hands.

The sailor took his next trick at the wheel at six o'clock, and half an
hour later a sloop hove in sight, far to the southwestward. He nodded to
Nelson, but said nothing. Most of the sailors were below, and Captain
Grabon had also disappeared.

"Go on to supper," said the mate of the vessel to our hero, and turned
away to inspect something forward.

"What shall I do?" whispered Nelson to the man at the wheel.

"Get your grub, lad," replied the sailor. "When we're close to that
craft I'll begin to whistle 'Annie Laurie.'"

"All right; I'll listen with all ears," responded our hero.

He was soon at the mess, and eating as though nothing out of the
ordinary was on his mind. But his ears were on the alert, and no sooner
had the first bars of the sailor's whistle risen on the evening air than
he pushed back his seat.

"I've had all I want," he muttered, for the other sailors' benefit.

"Getting seasick, I reckon," said an old tar, and laughed. Billy Darnley
was already sick, and lay on a bunk, as white as a sheet and groaning
dismally.

Soon Nelson had picked his way to the stern, being careful to keep out
of sight of the mate. The _Victory_ was now close to the sloop, and
presently glided by the smaller craft.

"Thanks! Good-by!" called Nelson, to the man at the wheel, and in
another moment he had dropped into the ocean and was swimming toward the
sloop with all the strength at his command.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

GERTRUDE HAS AN ADVENTURE.


It was with a light heart that Gertrude hurried to the ferry, crossed to
the New Jersey side, and took the express train for Lakewood. She did
not dream of the trick that had been practiced upon her, and anticipated
only a good engagement and a delightful ride on the cars.

For a long while she sat by the window, drinking in the swiftly moving
panorama as the train flew by station after station, and farms, and
woods. But few stops were made, and she had the entire seat to herself.
She would have been very much surprised had she known that Homer Bulson
was watching her, yet such was the case.

The man had seen her get on board, and now occupied a seat in the
smoker. His face wore a smile of triumph, for he felt that the girl was
already in his power.

It was just noon when the train pulled into the elegant little station
at Lakewood, and Gertrude alighted. Hotel stages were everywhere, and
so were cabs and cabmen.

At last she found a newsboy who directed her where to go. She thought he
looked at her rather queerly when he found out where the place was, but
he said nothing, and she asked no further questions. Soon she was
hurrying down the country road leading toward Sarah Higgins' place.

As she moved along she had to confess to herself that the surroundings
were hardly what she had anticipated. The road was little more than a
bypath, and was by no means well kept.

"Perhaps this is a short cut to something better," she thought. "That
newsboy didn't want me to walk any further than necessary. But I must
say I see no mansions anywhere around--only the plainest kind of
farmhouses."

At last she reached the spot the boy had mentioned. In a clump of pines
was a dilapidated cottage, half stone and half wood, with a dooryard in
front choked with weeds.

"There surely is some mistake," said the girl to herself. "This can't be
the house. I'll go in and find out where Mrs. Broaderick's home really
is."

She passed through the open gateway and made her way up the rough garden
path. The door was closed to the cottage, and so were all the windows.
She knocked loudly.

There was a wait of a minute, and she knocked again. At length the door
was opened cautiously and Sarah Higgins, dressed in a dirty wrapper and
with her hair flying in all directions, showed herself.

"Excuse me, but can you tell me where Mrs. Broaderick's house is?" asked
Gertrude politely.

"What's that?" asked Sarah Higgins, in a high-pitched voice, and placed
one hand behind her ear.

"I wish to find Mrs. Broaderick's house. Will you tell me where it is?"
went on the girl, in a louder key.

"Don't know Mrs. Broaderick," replied Sarah Higgins. Then she gave
Gertrude a searching look. "Come in and rest, won't you? You look tired
out."

"Thank you; I'll rest a moment," answered Gertrude. She was somewhat
dismayed by the turn affairs had taken. "And do you know most of the
folks around here?" she continued.

The question had to be repeated twice before the half-deaf woman
understood.

"Of course I do, miss," she answered. "Haven't I lived here going on
forty-five years--since I was a little girl?"

"Then you must know Mrs. Broaderick--or perhaps she is a newcomer."

"Never heard the name before. But, tell me, is your name Gertrude?"

"It is!" cried the girl in wonder. "How did you guess it?"

"I've been expecting you, my dear. It's all right, make yourself at
home," went on Sarah Higgins soothingly. "Let me take your hat, that's a
good young lady." And she started to take Gertrude's hat from her head.

She had been told that the girl would arrive that noon and would most
likely inquire for an imaginary person named Broaderick. Homer Bulson
had certainly laid his plans well.

"Don't! leave my hat be!" cried Gertrude, and shrank back in alarm. "You
seem to know my first name, madam, but I do not know you."

"Never mind; make yourself at home," said Sarah Higgins soothingly.

"But I do not wish to remain here. I want to find the lady I have come
to Lakewood to see," insisted poor Gertrude. Then she started for the
door--to find herself confronted by Homer Bulson.

"You!" she gasped, and sank back on a chair.

"You didn't expect to see me, did you?" he asked sarcastically, as he
came in and shut the door.

"I--I did not," she faltered. "What brought you here?"

"Well, if you must know, I was curious to learn where you were going,
Gertrude," he said in a low voice, that Sarah Higgins might not
understand. "I followed you from the ferry in New York."

"You were on the express train?"

"I was."

"You had no right to follow me."

"But what are you doing here?" he went on, bound to "mix up" matters
both for her and for Sarah Higgins, so that the latter might think
Gertrude quite out of her mind.

"I came to Lakewood on business." Gertrude arose. "Let me pass."

"Don't be in such a hurry, Gertrude; I wish to talk to you."

"But I do not wish to speak to you, Mr. Bulson."

"Gertrude, you are cruel--why not listen?"

"Because I do not wish to hear what you want to say."

"But you don't know what I have to say," he persisted.

"I know all I wish to know. Now let me pass."

She tried to make her way to the door, but he quickly caught her by the
arm.

"You shall not go," he said.

At this she let out a scream, but he only smiled, while Sarah Higgins
looked on curiously.

"Screaming will do you no good, Gertrude. This house is quarter of a
mile from any other, and the road is but little used."

"You are cruel--let me go!" said she, and burst into tears.

"You shall never leave until you listen to me," he said. And then he
tried his best to reason with her for fully an hour, but she would not
hearken. At last she grew as pale as a sheet.

"This whole thing is a trick--the letter and all!" she gasped, and fell
in a swoon. He caught her and carried her to an upper chamber of the
cottage. Here he placed her on a couch, and then went below again,
locking the door after him.

"It's a way she has at times," he explained to Sarah Higgins. "She is
not always so bad. She will be quite herself in a few days, and then
she will remember nothing of this."

"Poor dear!" was the answer. "It's dreadful to be so out of one's mind."

"You must take care that she does not escape."

"I will, sir. But about that money?" And the woman's eyes gleamed
greedily.

"There is ten dollars on account." And Homer Bulson handed over the
amount.

"Thank you, sir. She shall have the best of care--and she won't get
away, never fear."

"I was going to remain over in Lakewood to-night, but I find I must
return to New York," went on Bulson. "I'll be back again some time
to-morrow or the day after. In the meantime do not let her get out of
the room."

"I will do as you say, sir," answered Sarah Higgins, and then Gertrude's
cousin took his departure.

It did not take the girl long to come out of her swoon, and she at once
ran to the door. Finding it locked she went to the window, determined to
leap to the ground, if she could do nothing better. But, alas! Homer
Bulson had made his calculations only too well. The window was slatted
over on the outside, making the apartment virtually a prison cell.

She saw that the slats had been put on recently, and this made her more
sure than ever that the whole thing was a plot. The letter had been a
decoy, and had been used solely to get her in his power.

"What does he expect to do?" she asked herself. "I have given him every
claim on Uncle Mark's fortune; what more can he wish? Is he afraid I may
go back? Perhaps he wants to take my life, so as to be certain I will
not cross his path again." And she shivered.

Listening, she heard Homer Bulson bid Sarah Higgins good-by and leave
the cottage. At this she breathed a sigh of relief. She knocked steadily
on the door, and presently the woman came up.

"What do you want?" she asked through the keyhole.

"Are you going to keep me a prisoner here?"

"Only for a little while, my dear."

"Where has Mr. Bulson gone?"

"To New York, I believe."

"When will he be back?"

"To-morrow, or the day after."

"You expect to keep me here all night?" cried Gertrude, in astonishment.

"Now, don't grow excited," pleaded Sarah Higgins. "Yes, you'll have to
stay here until to-morrow, and perhaps some time longer. Now you had
better lie down and rest yourself."

And then the woman tramped off, leaving Gertrude filled with wonder and
dismay.



CHAPTER XXIX.

A SURPRISE ON THE ROAD.


When Nelson struck the water he was all of fifty feet away from the
sloop. Down he went over his head, but quickly reappeared and struck out
boldly.

"Hullo, somebody's overboard from the ship!" cried a young man, who sat
at the bow of the sloop. "Port your helm, Bob, or you'll run into him!"

The helm was thrown over, and the sloop veered around. Then Nelson set
up a shout.

"Help! Pick me up!" he cried. "On board the sloop! Help!"

"We'll pick you up, don't fear!" cried the young fellow at the bow, and
the sloop came around and the mainsail was lowered. The two young men on
the craft were skillful sailors, and soon came within reach of Nelson.
One held out a boathook, and presently our hero was hauled on board.

"It's a lucky thing we were near by, or you might have been drowned,"
said the young man called Bob. "Isn't that so, Clarence?"

"That's true," answered Clarence Bell. "I see your ship isn't stopping
for you."

"She isn't my ship, and I don't want her to stop," answered Nelson,
shaking the water from him.

"Oh! Then you jumped overboard on purpose."

"I did, and I am thankful you picked me up. The captain who runs that
boat was going to carry me to the West Indies against my will."

"Great Cæsar! Bob, do you hear that?"

"I do," returned Bob Chalmer. "Was it a case of kidnaping?"

"Hardly that," replied Nelson. "I'll tell you the whole story, if you'd
like to hear it. Only I want to be sure that that boat doesn't put back
after me," he continued.

He watched the _Victory_ for fully five minutes but nothing was done
toward turning back, and at last he gave a great sigh of relief.

"I guess I'm safe," he remarked.

"You are, lad. But you had better take off those wet clothes, or you'll
take cold. You'll find a dry suit in the cuddy."

This was sensible advice, and Nelson followed it. As soon as he had
donned the other suit he sat down and told how he had chased Billy
Darnley on board the _Victory_, and of what had followed.

"Humph! that captain is pretty hard-hearted," remarked Clarence Bell.

"He ought to be arrested," put in Bob Chalmer. "You were lucky to get
away. I guess that thief is out of your reach now."

"Well, anyway, I left him as sick as he could be," said Nelson, and
could not help but laugh over Darnley's woe-begone appearance. "He'll
have enough of the sea by the time he gets back."

From the young men he learned that they had been out for two days on a
fishing trip. They had had good luck, as the mess on board proved, and
they were now sailing for Manasquan Inlet, where they were boarding for
a few weeks.

"We belong in New York," said Bob Chalmer later. "And I guess we can see
you through all right."

"I'll be much obliged, if you would," said Nelson. "I'll pay you back as
soon as I reach the city." And then he told of the news stand, and the
business he and Van Pelt were doing.

The breeze was as brisk as ever, and it veered around, so that the sloop
made the Inlet without difficulty. They ran up the river to a small
collection of cottages and boathouses known as Reefer's. Here they tied
up, and Nelson went ashore, wearing the old fishing suit he had
borrowed.

"You can't get home to-night, so you shall stay with us," said Bob
Chalmer, and procured a room at one of the cottages for Nelson. Tired
out, our hero slept well. But he arose early, and by that time his own
clothes were dry, and he put them on.

"I've got a railroad ticket in my pocket good from Lakewood to New
York," said Chalmer, while they were having breakfast. "It's a limited
ticket and runs out to-morrow. Why can't you use that? You can have it
at half price."

"How far is Lakewood from here?"

"Not over six or seven miles. The stage will take you over for fifteen
cents."

"That will suit me," answered our hero. "I've got half a dollar left."

"Oh, I'll lend you some money, Nelson!"

"No; I won't need it."

The matter was talked over, and our hero took the ticket. Quarter of an
hour later he was on the stage, bound for Lakewood.

It was a clear day, and the ride among the smooth roads was thoroughly
enjoyable. Yet Nelson thought but little of the journey. His mind was
filled with his personal affairs. He wondered what Van Pelt thought of
his continued disappearance.

"He'll think I've captured Darnley sure," he reasoned. "Well, what's
happened can't be helped, and I'm lucky to escape, I suppose."

On and on went the stage, making good time, for the team was fresh.

When about two miles from Lakewood they reached a bend, where the road
was being repaired.

A steam roller was at work, and at this one of the horses grew
frightened and started to run away. His mate went with him, and in a
twinkle the stage was bumping along at a high rate of speed.

"Stop! stop!" shrieked a lady sitting near Nelson. "Stop, or we'll all
be killed!"

"Whoa! whoa!" roared the stage-driver, and tried to pull the horses in.
But his lines were old, and suddenly one snapped, and then the horses
went along faster than ever.

Not far down the road were several heaps of stone, to be used in
repairing the highway, and the team headed directly for the first of
these heaps. The driver tried to sheer them around, but with one line
gone was nearly helpless, and in a second more the stage struck the
pile and went over with a crash. Then the horses came to a halt.

No one was seriously injured by the mishap, although the lady who had
cried out was much shaken up. Soon all gathered around, to learn the
extent of the damage to the stage.

It was found that one of the front wheels was knocked to pieces. The
driver was much downcast, and knew not what to do.

"I'll have to leave the turnout here and go back to Berry's shop for a
new wheel, I suppose," he said. He could not state how soon he would
return, or how soon the stage would be ready to start forward once more.

"How far is it to the Lakewood railroad station from here?" questioned
Nelson.

"Not over a mile and a half."

"Then I'll walk it, if you'll show me the shortest road."

"The shortest road is that over yonder," answered the stage-driver. "It
aint no good for driving, but it's plenty good enough for hoofing it."

"Thanks," said Nelson, and without waiting he started off to walk the
remainder of the journey.

He had still an hour and a half before the train would be due at
Lakewood, so he took his time and often stopped to look at the dense
woods and the beautiful green fields.

"What a difference between this and New York streets!" he said to
himself. "And how quiet it is! I don't believe I could sleep here at
night, it would be so still!"

At length he came within sight of an old cottage, where a woman was
hanging up a small wash on a line. Feeling thirsty, he resolved to go
into the yard and ask her for a drink of water.

But no sooner had he set foot in the weedy garden than the woman came
running toward him, waving him away.

"Don't want to buy anything!" she cried shrilly. "Don't want to buy! Go
away!"

"I haven't anything to sell," answered Nelson, with a smile. "I was
going to ask for a drink of water."

"Oh!" The woman eyed him suspiciously. "Water, did you say?"

"Yes; I'd like a drink."

"The well is mighty poor here. You can get a drink up to the next
house."

"Very well," returned Nelson, and started to leave the garden. As he did
so he heard a sudden crash of glass and, looking up, saw some panes
from a window in an upper room of the cottage fall to the ground.

"Nelson! Nelson! Help me!" came the unexpected cry.

"My gracious!" burst out our hero, in bewilderment. "Gertrude! What does
this mean?"

"I am held a prisoner," answered Gertrude. "Save me!"

"A prisoner?"

"Yes, Nelson. You will help me, won't you?"

"To be sure I'll help you. But--but who did this?"

"My cousin, Mr. Bulson."

"The scoundrel! Is he here now?"

"I think not. But he may come back at any moment."

"Go away from here!" shrieked Sarah Higgins, in alarm. "Go away! That
girl is crazy!"

"I guess you are crazy!" returned Nelson hotly. "Stand aside and let me
get into the house."

"No, no! You must go away!" went on Sarah Higgins.

Then of a sudden she leaped back and ran for the cottage with might and
main. Reaching it, she closed the door and locked it. Then she appeared
at a near-by window, armed with a rolling-pin.

"Don't you dast come in!" she shrieked. "If you do, you'll have to take
the consequences!" And she flourished the rolling-pin defiantly.



CHAPTER XXX.

COMPARING NOTES.


It must be confessed that for the moment Nelson was completely
nonplused. He wished to get into the cottage, and at once, but the woman
looked as if she meant what she said, and he had no desire to have his
skull cracked open by the rolling-pin.

"See here, madam; you are making a great mistake," he said as calmly as
he could.

"Eh?" And Sarah Higgins put her hand up to her ear.

"I say you are making a great mistake," bawled Nelson. "That lady is not
crazy."

"I say she is."

"Who told you she was crazy--Mr. Bulson?"

At this the woman looked astonished.

"Do you know that gentleman?"

"I know that man, yes. He is no gentleman. He robbed that lady of her
property."

"How do you know?"

"I know--and that's enough. If you don't let me in at once, I'll have
the law on you, and you'll go to prison for ten or twenty years," went
on Nelson, bound to put his argument as strongly as possible.

At this Sarah Higgins grew pale, and the hand with the rolling-pin
dropped at her side.

"Sure you aint making a mistake, boy?"

"No; I know exactly what I am talking about. That young lady is not
crazy, and neither you nor Bulson have any right to keep her a
prisoner."

"He said she was crazy; that she needed rest and quiet. That's why he
brought her here."

"He is a villain, and if you know when you are well off, you'll have
nothing to do with him. Now let me in, before I hammer down the door and
turn you over to the police."

"Oh, my! don't hammer down the door, and don't call the police!"
shrieked Sarah Higgins. "I meant to do no wrong, I can assure you."

"Then open the door."

"You will not--not touch me if I do?" she asked timidly.

"Not if you behave yourself. If Bulson deceived you, that's in your
favor. But you had better not help him further."

With trembling hand Sarah Higgins unbolted the door and opened it. At
once Nelson marched in, and, espying the stairs, mounted to the upper
floor of the cottage.

"Nelson, is that you?"

"Yes."

"Oh, how thankful I am!"

"Where's the key to this door?" demanded our hero of the woman, who had
followed him.

"There." And she pointed to a near-by nail. Soon he had the door
unlocked, and at once Gertrude rushed out to meet him. The tears of joy
stood in her eyes.

"How did you find the way so soon?" she asked.

"The way? What do you mean?"

"Why, the way from the railroad station at Lakewood. Did they know I
came here?"

"I haven't been to Lakewood," answered Nelson. "I came here by pure
accident." And then in a few words he told his story.

When he had finished Gertrude told of the decoy letter and of what had
followed. Our hero was deeply interested and very angry that Homer
Bulson had played such a trick.

"He ought to be put behind the bars for it," he said. "Certainly I am
going to tell the police about it. He hasn't any right to follow you up
in this fashion, even if he is your cousin."

"He is growing more bold every day," answered Gertrude. "I shall never
feel safe so long as he is near me."

Sarah Higgins now calmed down, and tried to clear herself by saying she
had been imposed upon. She readily consented to tell all she knew, if
called upon to do so in a court of law, providing she herself was not
prosecuted.

"That gives us one witness against your cousin," said Nelson. "If we can
get another, we'll put him behind the bars."

"I don't want him locked up, if only he will leave me alone," returned
Gertrude.

Nelson's visit to the cottage had taken time, and when Gertrude was
ready to leave it was found to be too late to take the train our hero
had started to catch.

"Never mind, we can take the afternoon train," said the boy. "But we
will have to get dinner somewhere." He turned to Sarah Higgins. "I think
you ought to furnish that."

At this the miserly woman winced.

"Well, if you really think so----" she began.

"I don't wish to stay here," cried Gertrude, "Mr. Bulson may be back at
any moment."

"Well, if he comes, I guess he'll get the worst of it," answered Nelson.

But Gertrude would not stay, and a few minutes later they quitted the
cottage.

The girl still had her pocketbook, with her money and the railroad
ticket, so she would have no trouble in getting back to the metropolis.
She also had over a dollar in addition, and she insisted upon having
Nelson dine with her at a modest-looking restaurant, where the rates
were not high.

"Your uncle ought to be told of your cousin's doings," said our hero,
when they were waiting for the train. "I don't believe he would stand
for it, no matter if he is displeased with you."

"I will not take the story to him," answered Gertrude with spirit. "He
cast me out, and I shall not go near him until he asks me to come."

"Well, I guess I'd feel that way," answered Nelson, after a thoughtful
pause. "I can't understand how he can treat his own blood as he is
treating you."

"Uncle Mark was not always this way, Nelson. In years gone by he was
very kind and considerate."

"But what made the change?"

"His sickness. Ever since he has been confined to the house he has been
nervous, peevish, and altogether a different person. I really can't
understand it."

"It's queer. Do you suppose having Bulson around makes any difference?"

"How could it affect his sickness?"

"Perhaps he gives your uncle something that affects his mind."

"Oh, Nelson! could anybody be so dreadfully cruel?"

"Some folks are as mean as dirt. I want to tell you something that I
never spoke of before, because I thought it wouldn't be right to
misjudge Bulson when I didn't know him as well as I know him now. Do you
remember I once told you how he tried to cheat George Van Pelt out of
the sale of some books?"

"Yes, I remember. You said Van Pelt made him take the books."

"So he did. And do you know what the books were?"

"I can't imagine."

"They were works on poisons, written in French."

"Poisons!" Gertrude grew pale. "Oh, Nelson! and you think----" She could
not go on.

"I don't know what to think, but if I were you I'd have the doctors
examine everything that Mr. Horton takes, especially the stuff Homer
Bulson gives him."

"I will do that. Mr. Bulson can no longer be trusted. He is a high
liver, and may be very anxious to get hold of Uncle Mark's fortune in
the near future."

"He said he wanted the books because he was going to become a doctor and
make poisons a specialty. That is what he told Van Pelt."

"A doctor! I don't believe he has brains enough to become a doctor--or
if he has, he is too lazy to apply himself. Why, when he was a boy he
was turned out of school because he wouldn't study."

"Well, if he would lie and use you as he has, he would do worse,
Gertrude. For your uncle's sake he ought to be watched."

"He shall be watched," said Gertrude decidedly. "No matter how badly
Uncle Mark has treated me, I will see to it that Homer Bulson no longer
plays him foul."



CHAPTER XXXI.

BULSON GROWS DESPERATE.


Sam Pepper was taking it easy at the rear of his resort on the evening
of the day when Gertrude went to Lakewood, when the door opened and a
messenger boy came in.

"Is Sam Pepper here?" asked the boy, approaching Bolton.

"That's my handle, sonny. What do you want?"

"Here's a message. I was to wait for an answer."

Pepper took the message and read it with interest.


     "FRIEND PEPPER: Meet me to-night between eleven and twelve o'clock
     at my apartments. Something important. Bring those old papers with
     you. I have the cash.

     "H. B."


"Humph! so Bulson wants to close that deal to-night," muttered Sam
Pepper, as he tore the message to shreds. "He's in a tremendous hurry,
all at once. I wonder what's new in the wind? Well, I'm low on cash, and
I might as well take him up now as later on."

"Where's the answer?" asked the messenger boy.

"Here you are," returned Pepper, and scribbled a reply on a slip of
paper. Then the messenger received his pay and made off.

Promptly on time that night Sam Pepper went up Fifth Avenue. Just as he
reached Homer Bulson's home the young man came down the steps.

"Come with me--the house is full of company," he said. "I want to talk
to you where we will be free from interruption."

"I'm agreeable," answered Pepper.

The pair walked rapidly down a side street. Homer Bulson seemed ill at
ease, and Pepper noticed it.

"You are not yourself to-night," he said.

"I've got lots to think about," growled Bulson.

"Still mad because the girl won't have you, I suppose."

"No, I've given her up. I don't want a wife that won't love me."

"That's where you are sensible."

"Gertrude can go her way and I'll go mine."

"Well, you'll have the softest snap of it," laughed Pepper. "She'll get
nothing but hard knocks."

"That's her own fault."

"She don't make more than half a living, teaching the piano."

"Oh, if she gets too hard up, I'll send her some money," responded
Bulson, trying to affect a careless manner.

"By your talk you must be pretty well fixed."

"I struck a little money yesterday, Pepper--that's why I sent to you. I
want to go away to-morrow, and I wanted to clear up that--er--that
little affair of the past before I left."

"What do you want?"

"I want all those papers you once showed me, and if you have that will I
want that, too."

"You don't want much." And Sam Pepper laughed suggestively.

"Those papers will never do you any good."

"They might."

"I don't see how?"

"The boy might pay more for them than you'll pay."

"He? If he knew the truth, he'd have you arrested on the spot."

"Don't be so sure of that, Bulson. I know the lad better than you do.
He has a tender heart--far more tender than you have."

"Well, if it's a question of price, how much do you want?" demanded
Homer Bulson sourly.

"I want five thousand dollars cash."

"Five thousand! Pepper, have you gone crazy?"

"No; I'm as sane as you are."

"You ask a fortune."

"If that's a fortune, what's the amount you expect to gain? Old Horton
is worth over a hundred thousand, if he's worth a cent."

"But I'm not sure of this fortune yet. He's a queer old fellow. He might
cut me off at the last minute."

"Not if you had that will. You could date that to suit yourself, and
you'd push your game through somehow."

"I can give you two thousand dollars--not a dollar more."

"It's five thousand or nothing," responded Sam Pepper doggedly.

"Will you accept my check?"

"No; I want the cash."

"That means you won't trust me!" cried Bulson, in a rage.

"Business is business."

Homer Bulson breathed hard. The pair were on a side street, close to
where a new building was being put up. The young man paused.

"You're a hard-hearted fellow, Pepper," he said. "You take the wind out
of my sails. I've got to have a drink on that. Come, though. I don't
bear a grudge. Drink with me."

As he spoke he pulled a flask from his pocket and passed it over.

"I'll drink with you on one condition," answered Pepper. "And that is
that I get my price."

"All right; it's high, but you shall have it."

Without further ado Sam Pepper opened the flask and took a deep draught
of the liquor inside.

"Phew! but that's pretty hot!" he murmured, as he smacked his lips.
"Where did you get it?"

"At the club--the highest-priced stuff we have," answered Bulson. Then
he placed the flask to his own lips and pretended to swallow a like
portion to that taken by his companion, but touched scarcely a drop.

"It's vile--I sell better than that for ten cents," continued Pepper.

"Let us sit down and get to business," went on Bulson, leading the way
into the unfinished building. "I want to make sure that you have
everything I want. I am not going to pay five thousand dollars for a
blind horse."

"I'm square," muttered Sam Pepper. "When I make a deal I carry it out to
the letter."

"You have everything that proves the boy's identity?"

"Everything."

"Then sit down, and I'll count out the money."

"It's--rather--dark--in--here," mumbled Sam Pepper, as he began to
stagger.

"Oh, no! it must be your eyesight."

"Hang--me--if I--can--see--at--all," went on Pepper, speaking in a lower
and lower tone. "I--that is--Bulson, you--you have drugged me, you--you
villain!" And then he pitched forward and lay in a heap where he had
fallen.

Homer Bulson surveyed his victim with gloating eyes. "He never sold
better knock-out drops to any crook he served," he muttered. "Now I
shall see what he has got in his pockets."

Bending over his victim, he began to search Sam Pepper's pockets. Soon
he came across a thick envelope filled with letters and papers. He
glanced over several of the sheets.

"All here," he murmured. "This is a lucky strike. Now Sam Pepper can
whistle for his money."

He placed the things he had taken in his own pocket and hurried to the
street.

Nobody had noticed what was going on, and he breathed a long sigh of
relief.

"He won't dare to give me away," he said to himself. "If he does he'll
go to prison for stealing the boy in the first place. And he'll never be
able to prove that I drugged him because nobody saw the act. Yes, I am
safe."

It did not take Homer Bulson long to reach his bachelor apartments, and
once in his rooms he locked the door carefully.

Then, turning up a gas lamp, he sat down near it, to look over the
papers he had taken from the insensible Pepper.

"I'll destroy the letters," he said. He smiled as he read one. "So Uncle
Mark offered five thousand for the return of little David, eh? Well,
it's lucky for me that Sam Pepper, alias Pepperill Sampson, didn't take
him up. I reckon Pepper was too cut up over his discharge, for it kept
him from getting another fat job." He took up the will. "Just what I
want. Now, if Uncle Mark makes another will, I can always crop up with
this one, and make a little trouble for somebody."

He lit the letters one by one, and watched them turn slowly to ashes.
Then he placed the other papers in the bottom of his trunk, among his
books on poisons, and went to bed.



CHAPTER XXXII.

SOMEBODY WAITS IN VAIN.


Mrs. Kennedy was busy at her stand, piling up some fruit, when a woman
who was a stranger to her approached.

"Is this Mary Kennedy?" the newcomer asked.

"That's me name," answered the old woman. "But I don't know you, ma'am."

"My name is Mrs. Conroy. I'm a nurse. Mrs. Wardell sent me to you."

"Yes, I know Mrs. Wardell. But what is it you want, ma'am? I don't need
a nurse now, though I did some time ago, goodness knows."

"I am not looking for a position," smiled Mrs. Conroy. "I am looking for
a young lady named Gertrude Horton."

"Gertrude Horton! Who sint you?" questioned Mrs. Kennedy suspiciously.

"Her uncle, Mark Horton, sent me."

At this Mrs. Kennedy was more interested than ever.

"An' what does he want of the darling, Mrs. Conroy?"

"He wants her to return home."

"Heaven be praised fer that!"

"Where can I find Miss Horton?"

Again Mrs. Kennedy grew suspicious.

"I can tell you that quick enough, ma'am--but I must know if it's all
right, first."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"There's a villain of a cousin, Homer Bulson, who's been tryin' to git
Miss Gertrude in his clutches. You're not doing this work for him?"

"No, indeed, Mrs. Kennedy. Mr. Horton sent me himself. He wants Miss
Gertrude to come straight home. He wants her to forgive him for his
harshness."

"To hear that now!" ejaculated Mrs. Kennedy joyfully. "What a change
must have come over him!"

"I do not know how he was before, but he is now very anxious for her to
return. He thinks he might get better if she were with him."

"What a pity Gertrude can't go to him this minit!" said Mrs. Kennedy.

"Will you tell me where I can find her?"

"She is not in New York, Mrs. Conroy. She went to Lakewood early this
morning."

"To stay?"

"Oh, no! She'll be back to-night."

"Will you see her then?"

"To be sure--she lives with me."

"Oh!"

"I'll send her home the minit I see her," went on Mrs. Kennedy.

"Then I'll return and tell him that," said the nurse. "Be sure and
insist upon her coming. He is so anxious he is almost crazy over it."

"Sure and he ought to be--drivin' her away in that fashion."

"I guess it was his sickness did it, Mrs. Kennedy. The man is not
himself; anybody can see that. The case puzzles the doctors very much."

Mrs. Conroy had some necessary shopping to do, but an hour saw her
returning to the mansion on Fifth Avenue.

"Well?" questioned Mark Horton anxiously. "Did you see her?"

"She had gone out of town--to Lakewood. But she will be back to-night."

"And will she come to me?"

"I cannot answer that question, Mr. Horton. I told the woman with whom
she lives to send her up here."

"Did you say she must come--that I wanted her to come?" persisted the
retired merchant eagerly.

"I did, and the woman was quite sure Miss Gertrude would come."

"When was she to get back from Lakewood?"

"By seven or eight o'clock."

"Then she ought to be here by nine or ten."

All that afternoon Mark Horton showed his impatience. Usually he took a
nap, but now he could not sleep. He insisted upon getting up and walking
around.

"The very thought that she will be back makes me feel stronger," he
declared. "It is more of a tonic than Homer's wine."

"Please do not grow impatient," said Mrs. Conroy. "You know there may be
some delay."

Slowly the evening came on and the street lamps were lit. Mr. Horton sat
at a front window, looking out. He did not want a light in the room.

"I wish to watch for her," he explained. "You may light up when she
comes."

He was now feverish, but would not take the soothing draught the nurse
prepared. Hour after hour passed, and presently he saw Homer Bulson
enter his quarters, and then go out again.

"I do not know how Homer will take the news," he told himself. "But he
will have to make the best of it. Of one thing I am resolved--Gertrude
shall do as she pleases if only she remains with me, and she shall have
half of my fortune when I die."

At last it was nine o'clock, and then the sick man became more nervous
than ever. Every time a woman appeared on the dimly lit street he would
watch her eagerly until she went past the mansion.

"She will not come!" he groaned. "She will not come!"

At ten o'clock Mrs. Conroy tried to get him to bed, but he was stubborn
and would not go. Another hour went by, and then another. As the clock
struck twelve Mark Horton fell forward in his chair.

"She has deserted me!" he groaned. "And I deserve it all!" And he sank
in a chair in a dead faint.

With an effort the nurse placed him upon the bed and did what she could
for him. But the shock had been great, and in haste she sent for a
physician.

"He has had them before," explained the doctor. "I will give him
something quieting--I can do no more. Each shock brings him closer to
the end. It is the most puzzling case on record."

As he was so feeble Mrs. Conroy thought best to send for his nephew, and
Homer Bulson was summoned just as he was waking up.

"All right, I'll be over," he said, with a yawn. He did not feel like
hurrying, for he was tired, and had been through such an experience
before. It was after eight when he at last showed himself.

"You are worse, Uncle Mark," he said, as he took the sufferer's hand.

"Yes, I am worse," was the low answer. "Much worse."

"It is too bad. Hadn't you better try some of that new wine I brought
you?"

"Not now, Homer. I feel as if I never cared to eat or drink again." And
Mark Horton gave a groan.

"You must not be so downcast, uncle."

"Homer, Gertrude has turned her back upon me!"

"Gertrude!" cried the nephew, very much startled.

"Yes, Gertrude. I--I did not think it possible."

"But I don't understand, Uncle Mark. Did you--er--did you send to her?"

"I will confess I did, Homer. I could stand it no longer. I wanted to
see the dear child again."

"And she turned her back on you?" went on Bulson, hardly knowing what to
say.

"She did. I sent for her to come at once. She had not gone to Boston,
but to Lakewood, and was to be back in the evening. That was yesterday.
She is not yet here, and that proves that she has forsaken me and wants
nothing more to do with me."

At these words a crafty look came into Homer Bulson's eyes.

"Uncle Mark, I am sorry for you, but I could have told you as much some
time ago," he said smoothly.

"You could have told me?"

"Yes. I went to Gertrude when she was thinking of going to Boston and
begged her to come back. I even offered to go away, so that she would
not be bothered with me. But she would not listen. She said that she was
done with you, and that she preferred her theatrical friends to such a
home as this, where there was no excitement. She is changed--and changed
for the worse."

"Oh, Homer! can this be true? The dear, gentle Gertrude I once so loved
and petted! But it is my own fault. I drove her away. I have only myself
to blame." And burying his face in his pillow, the sick man sobbed
aloud.

Instead of replying, Homer Bulson got out of a medicine closet the
bottle of wine he had brought two days before and poured out a glassful.

"Take this, Uncle Mark. I know it will do you good," he said.

"No, I want no wine!" cried Mr. Horton. And suddenly he dashed wine and
glass to the floor. "I hate it! It does me no good. I want nothing but
Gertrude!" And he buried his face in his pillow again.

"I will do my best to bring her to you," said Bulson hypocritically.

He remained at the mansion a short while, and was then told that there
was a man who wished to see him.

He hurried to his own apartments across the way, and here found himself
face to face with Sam Pepper.

"You played me a fine trick," growled Pepper. "Give me back the papers
you stole from me."

"Let us come to an understanding," said Bulson. "I am willing to pay
for what I took, Pepper. Come with me."

"Want to drug me again?"

"No. I want to get where it is quiet. Come."

"All right, I'll go along. Supposing you come to my place?"

"That will suit me. I want to make a new deal with you."

And the pair started for Sam Pepper's resort on the East Side.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

QUESTIONS OF IMPORTANCE.


"Sure, and this is a double mystery, so it is. What do you make of it,
Mr. Van Pelt?"

It was Mrs. Kennedy who spoke. The non-appearance of Gertrude had
worried her greatly, and she had visited Van Pelt, to learn that Nelson
was also missing.

"I don't know what to make of it," answered George Van Pelt. "Nelson
went after Billy Darnley, who robbed our stand. Perhaps he has met with
foul play."

"Could our Gertrude have met with foul play at Lakewood?"

"I shouldn't think so. She knew where she was going, didn't she?"

"To be sure--to a Mrs. Broaderick's; she read the letter to me herself."

"Perhaps Mrs. Broaderick asked her to stay over," said Van Pelt. "I
can't think of anything else."

While the pair were talking Mrs. Kennedy happened to look up the street.

"Here comes Nelson now!" she cried suddenly.

She was right, and soon our hero was at the stand, and shaking each by
the hand.

"I feel as if I've been on a long trip," he said, with a broad smile.

"Where have you been?" questioned Van Pelt and Mrs. Kennedy in a breath,
and then he told them his story, and also told of what had happened to
Gertrude.

"The dirty villain!" cried Mrs. Kennedy, referring to Bulson. "He ought
to be put in prison. But the poor girl's troubles are over now."

Then she told of how Mark Horton wanted his niece to come back to him.

"Perhaps he wants her back, and perhaps this is another trick," said
Nelson. "After this I am going to help guard her more than ever."

"Where is she now?"

"At home. She doesn't know what to do. She thinks of calling on her
uncle--to warn him against Bulson. We've got an idea the man is
poisoning his uncle in order to get the entire fortune."

"Those books on poison----" began Van Pelt.

"Exactly," said Nelson. "You can testify to them, can't you?"

"To be sure. You had better tell the police of this."

"I shall," said Nelson, quietly but firmly.

The matter was talked over, and our hero determined to call again upon
Gertrude, whom he had just left at Mrs. Kennedy's rooms.

When told of the message her uncle had sent the poor girl burst into
tears of joy.

"Dear Uncle Mark! He is not as bad as I thought!" she cried. "He would
be as kind as ever, if he wasn't so sick. Yes, I will go at once, and I
will tell him all."

"And I'll go along--to prove your story and to tell him about the books
on poisons," said Nelson.

Soon the pair were on their way to the mansion on Fifth Avenue. Gertrude
was all in a tremble, and could scarcely contain herself for joy. The
housekeeper let her in, with a smile.

"I am glad to see you back," she said warmly. "I hope you'll stay, Miss
Gertrude."

"How is my uncle?"

"Very feeble. I hope the shock doesn't hurt him."

"Is that Gertrude?" came in Mark Horton's voice from the head of the
stairs.

Instead of replying the girl ran to meet him, and in another moment
uncle and niece were in each other's arms.

"Oh, Uncle Mark!" was all Gertrude could say.

"My dear Gertrude," murmured the feeble man, "I am so thankful you have
come back to me! I was cruel, nay crazy--but I will never be so again.
Will you forgive me?"

"Willingly, uncle," she answered. "You were not yourself; it was your
sickness made you act so. Now I will nurse you back to health and
strength."

"Ah! Gertrude! I do not feel as if I can get back my strength again. I
am too far gone," murmured the retired merchant.

"Rest yourself, uncle." And she led him to a chair. "After a while I
want to have a long talk with you. But tell me first, have you been
taking any wine lately--I mean the wine Homer Bulson gave you?"

"A little. But I do not like it--although he almost forces me to take
it. Why do you ask?"

"If you will hear me out, I will tell you. It is a long story."

"I will listen to every word, Gertrude."

As briefly as she could she told of what had happened to her since she
had left home, how Homer Bulson had followed her up, and what he had
done at Lakewood. Then she spoke of Van Pelt and Nelson, and how they
could prove that Bulson had purchased several books on poisons. At this
last revelation Mark Horton grew deadly pale.

"And you think----" He faltered, and paused. "Oh, Heavens, can it be
possible? My own nephew!"

"I would have the wine analyzed," said Gertrude. "And I would have him
watched carefully."

At that moment came a ring at the front door bell, and the doctor
appeared.

"Ah, Miss Horton!" he said with a smile. "I am glad that you are back."

"Doctor, I want that wine examined without delay," broke in the retired
merchant.

"Examined? What for?"

"See if it is pure. I have an idea it is impure."

The doctor smiled, thinking this was another of the sick man's whims.
But Gertrude called him aside.

"We think the wine is poisoned," she whispered. "Examine it as soon as
you can, and report to me."

"Oh!" The doctor's face became a study. "By Jove, if this is true----"
He said no more, but soon departed, taking the wine with him, and also a
glass of jelly Bulson had brought in for his uncle's use.

"And so you have brought Nelson with you," said Mark Horton. "Perhaps I
had better see him."

"Do you remember him?" asked Gertrude, her face flushing. "He was in the
library that night----"

"So that is the young man that was here! Gertrude, for the life of me I
cannot understand that affair."

"Nelson did not want to explain all he knew, because he wanted to shield
a man who used to care for him, uncle. He thought the man came here to
rob you, but he made a mistake, for after he left this house he saw the
man come out of the house opposite, with Homer Bulson."

"Who was the man?"

"A rough kind of a fellow who keeps a saloon on the East Side. His name
is Samuel Pepper."

"Samuel Pepper? Samuel Pepper?" Mark Horton repeated the name slowly.
"That sounds familiar. Pepper? Pepper? Ah!" He drew a breath. "Can it
be the same?" he mused.

"Shall I bring Nelson up?"

"Yes, at once."

Soon our hero was ushered into the sick room. He was dressed in his
best, and cut far from a mean figure as he stood there, hat in hand.

"You are Nelson?" said Mark Horton slowly.

"Yes, sir."

"I must thank you for all you have done for my niece. I shall not forget
it."

"That's all right," said Nelson rather awkwardly. "I'd do a good deal
for Gertrude, any day."

"You are a brave boy, Nelson. I believe I once misjudged you."

"You did, sir. I'm no thief."

"I am willing to believe that I was mistaken." Mark Horton paused for a
moment. "Gertrude tells me you live with a man named Sam Pepper," he
went on slowly.

"I used to live with him, but we parted some time ago. I didn't want
anything to do with drink or with a saloon, and I did want to make a man
of myself."

"That was very commendable in you. But tell me, is this man's right
name Sam Pepper?"

"I hardly think it is, sir. I once saw some letters, and they were
addressed to Pepperill Sampson."

"The same! He must be the same!" Mark Horton breathed hard. "Do you know
anything about him--where he came from, and so on?"

"Not much. You see, I'm not very old. But he did tell me once that you
had been an enemy to my father."

"Me? Who was your father?"

Our hero hung his head and flushed up.

"I don't know, sir."

"This Pepperill Sampson is a villain. Why, he robbed me of my son years
ago, to get square with me because I had discharged him for stealing."

"Robbed you of your son?" repeated Nelson. "Do you mean to say he killed
your boy?"

"I don't know what he did. At first he was going to let me have my
little David back for five thousand dollars, but then he got scared, and
disappeared, and that was the last I heard of him or of my child."

"Then David may be alive!" cried Gertrude. "Nelson----" She stopped
short. Each person in the room gazed questioningly at the others. Our
hero's breath came thick and fast. Then the door bell below rang
violently, and Nelson and Gertrude heard Mrs. Kennedy admitted.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

FATHER AND SON--CONCLUSION.


"It's Nelson an' Miss Gertrude I want to see," those in the sick chamber
heard Mrs. Kennedy exclaim. "An' I want to see 'em at once. I have great
news for 'em."

"I'll go," said Nelson, and slipped downstairs, followed by Gertrude.
They found Mrs. Kennedy in a state of high excitement. Her faded bonnet
was on one ear, and she walked the floor rapidly.

"Oh, my! Upon me soul, I can't belave it!" she burst out. "It's like a
dream, Nelson, so it is."

"What is like a dream, Mrs. Kennedy?"

"The story I have to tell, Nelson. Poor, poor man! but it was all for
the best--wid that crime on his mind."

"What are you talking about?" put in Gertrude.

"I'm talkin' av poor Sam Pepper, Miss Gertrude. He's dead."

"Dead!" burst out Gertrude and Nelson simultaneously.

Mrs. Kennedy nodded her head half a dozen times.

"Yes, dead; cut to pieces on the elevated railroad, at the station close
to me little stand. He died wid me a-holdin' av his hand."

"It's too bad," murmured Nelson. "Poor fellow! he had some ways about
him that I liked."

"But it's not that I came about," went on Mrs. Kennedy. "Whin they
brought the poor man to the sidewalk to wait for an ambulance, I stayed
by him, and he says to me, says he, 'Mrs. Kennedy, I have something on
me mind,' says he. 'I want to tell it to you,' says he. So says I, 'What
is it?' Says he, 'It's about Nelson. He's a good boy,' says he. 'And I
aint done right by him. Tell him I stole him from his father, and that
his father is Mr. Mark Horton, Miss Gertrude's uncle.'"

"Mark Horton my father!" gasped Nelson, and the room seemed to go round
and round in a bewildering whirl. "He my father! Can it be true?"

"It must be true!" cried Gertrude.

"And he says, too, 'Beware of Homer Bulson. He is a thief--he robbed his
uncle's safe. I caught him at it. He has his uncle's will, too,' says
poor Pepper. 'He wants to git hold of all the money,' says he."

"Yes, I know Homer Bulson is a rascal," said Nelson. "But this other
news----" He sank in a chair.

"Then you are David Horton, Nelson!" cried Gertrude. "I am indeed very
glad of it. I know of no one I would like more for a cousin."

"David Horton!" came a hollow voice from the doorway, and Mr. Horton
staggered in. "Can this be possible? It must be! See, I recognize his
face now. Yes, yes; you are my son David! Come to me!" And he held out
his arms.

Nelson came forward slowly, then of a sudden he reached forth, and
grasped Mark Horton's hands tightly.

"I--I suppose it's true," he faltered. "But it will take me a long time
to--to get used to it."

"My little David had just such eyes and hair as you have," went on Mark
Horton, as he still held Nelson closely to him. "And your face reminds
me greatly of your mother. There can be no mistake. You are my own
little David."

"Well, I'm glad that I'm not Nelson, the nobody, any longer," stammered
our young hero. He could scarcely talk intelligibly, he felt so queer.

"My own cousin David!" said Gertrude, and she, too, embraced him.

"Well, I always thought we'd be something to each other, Gertrude," said
he. "But, come to think of it, if I am David Horton, then Homer Bulson
is a cousin, too."

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Do not fear! He shall not come between you," said Mark Horton. "My eyes
are being opened to his schemes."

"Sure an' he's a snake in the grass," burst out Mrs. Kennedy.

She had scarcely spoken when there was another arrival at the mansion,
and Homer Bulson came in.

On seeing the assembled company, he was nearly struck dumb. He looked
from one to another in open-mouthed and speechless amazement.

"Why--er--how did you get here?" he questioned at last, addressing
Gertrude.

"That is my affair, Mr. Bulson," she answered coldly.

"And you?" he added, turning sharply to our hero. "You have no business
in a gentleman's house."

"Homer!" exclaimed Mark Horton, and shook his fist at his nephew.

"Hush, uncle! We will deal with him," remonstrated Gertrude. "Pray, do
not excite yourself."

"I have business here," said our hero dryly, realizing that he had a
great advantage over Bulson. "You hardly expected to see Gertrude come
back from Lakewood so soon, did you?"

"I--er--I know nothing of Lakewood," stammered Bulson.

"That proves you have a wonderfully short memory, Homer Bulson."

"I won't listen to you. You get right out of this house."

"I won't get out."

"Then I'll call an officer, and have you put out."

"If you call an officer, you'll be the one to go with him," returned our
hero calmly. "Homer Bulson, your game is played to the end, and you have
lost."

"Boy, you talk in riddles."

"Then I'll explain myself. You plotted to drive Gertrude from this
house, and you succeeded. Then you plotted against your uncle, and had
Gertrude made a prisoner at Lakewood."

"Stuff and nonsense!"

"It is the truth. Perhaps you'll deny next that you ever knew Sam
Pepper."

"Why, has that fool come here?" roared Bulson, in a rage. "I told
him----" He stopped short in confusion.

"Sam Pepper is dead--killed on the elevated railroad. Before he died he
confessed several things, and, among others, what a villain you were."

"Ah! and what else?"

"He said I was the son of Mr. Horton here."

At this Homer Bulson grew as pale as death. He clutched at a table, then
sank heavily on a near-by chair.

"It is--is false," he muttered, but his looks belied his words.

"It is true," broke in Mark Horton. "The boy is my son. This Sam Pepper
was merely Pepperill Sampson in disguise. Homer, you are a villain!"

"Uncle Mark----"

"No, I won't listen to you. I listened before; now I am done. If you
ever try to lift a finger against Gertrude or David, I will cut you off
without a penny."

"But--but----"

"I am having the wine which you gave me examined. If I find that it was
doctored--well, you had better be missing, that's all," added Mark
Horton sternly. "I am willing to do much to avoid a family scandal, but
I will not stand too much."

"Who--who has the wine?"

"The doctor."

At this piece of information Homer Bulson leaped to his feet.

"It's an outrage! I won't stand it!" he shouted. "You are all plotting
against me!" And so speaking, he ran to the hall, picked up his silk
hat, and hastily rushed from the mansion.

"Shall I go after him?" questioned our hero.

"No; let him go," returned the retired merchant.

"But he will never come back--you may be certain of that."

"So much the better, for then all scandal will be avoided, and we will
be very well rid of him."

"Yes; let him go," added Gertrude. "Possibly he will repent and turn
over a new leaf."

"All right! Give him the chance," murmured the boy, and then turning to
his father, he added: "I guess I can afford to be generous when I've
gained a father, and such a cousin as Gertrude!"


A few words more, and then we will bring this story of life in New York
City to a close.

As anticipated, Homer Bulson fled from the city without delay, and
nothing was heard of him for months, when it was learned that he had
joined an exploring expedition bound for South Africa. A year later he
sent a long letter to his uncle, stating that he was in the mines of the
Transvaal, and doing fairly well. He added that he bitterly repented of
his wrongdoings, and hoped his uncle and the others would forgive him.
To this Mr. Horton replied that he would forgive him if he continued to
make a man of himself, and this Bulson did, within his limited ability.

Great was George Van Pelt's astonishment when he learned that Nelson was
Mr. Horton's lost son. At first he refused to believe what was told him.

"You are lucky," he said at last. "You won't want the news stand any
longer."

"No," said our hero. "I'm going to give my share to Paul Randall. And
what is more, I'll pay that money we borrowed from Mr. Amos Barrow; so
neither of you will have any debt hanging over you."

Our hero was as good as his word, and not only did he clear the news
stand, but some time later he purchased a better fruit-and-candy stand
for Mrs. Kennedy, and also a first-class flower stand for Gladys
Summers.

"You're a fine young gentleman," said Mrs. Kennedy. "A fine boy,
Nelson--beggin' your pardon, Master David."

"I'm not used to the name yet," laughed our hero. "I guess I will be
Nelson the Newsboy for a long time to come among my old friends."

"I am very thankful to you," said Gladys. "That flower stand is just
what I wanted." And she gave Nelson her sweetest smile.

Nothing had been heard of the _Victory_ or of Billy Darnley. The ship
sailed to the West Indies and to South America, and from there to the
Pacific, and whatever became of the bully David Horton never learned,
nor did he care. Len Snocks drifted to Jersey City, and then to the
West, and became a tramp, and was at last killed while stealing a ride
on a freight train.

As soon as it was discovered how Mr. Horton had been slowly poisoned,
the doctor set to work to counteract the effects of the drugs. Gertrude,
our hero, and Mrs. Conroy took turns in caring for the sick man, and
before very long he began to show signs of rapid improvement.

"It is like some terrible nightmare," he explained one day, when walking
out, with Gertrude on one side of him and David on the other. "I was not
myself at all."

"No, you were not yourself," said Gertrude. "But you soon will be." And
she was right. By the following spring Mark Horton was a comparatively
well man.

These events all occurred a number of years ago, and since that time
several important things have happened to our hero. As soon as his
identity was established he was provided with a private tutor, who
taught him for several years and prepared him for Columbia College. He
passed through college with flying colors,, and then took up civil
engineering, and to-day he is building large bridges for a leading
railroad company. He is doing well, and is devoted to his work. He
lives with his father and his cousin and is very happy. But even in his
happiness it is not likely that he will ever forget the days when he was
"Nelson the Newsboy."


THE END.





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