Dick the Bank Boy Or A Missing Fortune
BY FRANK V. WEBSTER
AUTHOR OF "ONLY A FARM BOY," "BOB THE CASTAWAY," "COMRADES OF THE SADDLE," "AIRSHIP ANDY," ETC.
NEW YORK CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY PUBLISHERS
BOOKS FOR BOYS
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By FRANK V. WEBSTER
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12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
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ONLY A FARM BOY TOM, THE TELEPHONE BOY THE BOY FROM THE RANCH THE YOUNG TREASURE HUNTER BOB, THE CASTAWAY THE YOUNG FIREMEN OF LAKEVILLE THE NEWSBOY PARTNERS THE BOY PILOT OF THE LAKES TWO BOY GOLD MINERS JACK, THE RUNAWAY COMRADES OF THE SADDLE THE BOYS OF BELLWOOD SCHOOL THE HIGH SCHOOL RIVALS AIRSHIP ANDY BOB CHESTER'S GRIT BEN HARDY'S FLYING MACHINE DICK, THE BANK BOY DARRY, THE LIFE SAVER
Copyright, 1911, by
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
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DICK, THE BANK BOY
I. THE MEETING ON THE ROAD 1
II. A MOTHER WORTH FIGHTING FOR 9
III. DICK'S FIRST WAGES 17
IV. IN SEARCH OF A JOB 24
V. MR. GRAYLOCK RECEIVES A SURPRISE 32
VI. BOUND FOR THE OLD FISHING HOLE 40
VII. DICK MAKES A GALLANT RESCUE 48
VIII. THE COMING OF A LETTER 57
IX. GREAT NEWS 66
X. THE MEETING IN THE BANK 74
XI. FRIENDLY ADVISE 83
XII. GATHERING CLOUDS 92
XIII. WANTED IN THE CASHIER'S OFFICE 100
XIV. UNDER SUSPICION 108
XV. MR. GRAYLOCK SEEMS DISAPPOINTED 117
XVI. FORTUNE'S FAVORS 125
XVII. THE INVESTIGATION 133
XVIII. THE RECEIVING TELLER FREES HIS MIND 142
XIX. NOT FOR SALE 149
XX. A RED LETTER DAY 157
XXI. GOOD WORDS ON EVERY SIDE 165
XXII. A REMARKABLE BIT OF INTELLIGENCE 173
XXIII. NEARING A CLIMAX 181
XXIV. MR. GRAYLOCK MEETS HIS WATERLOO 190
XXV. CONCLUSION 198
DICK, THE BANK BOY
THE MEETING ON THE ROAD
"Get out of my way, Dick Morrison!"
The boy who had been trudging along the narrow road looked up in surprise at hearing himself spoken to so suddenly, though he recognized the domineering voice even before catching sight of the speaker.
"You already have half of the road, Ferd Graylock; to give you more I'd have to back down in the ditch, and I don't care to do that," he replied, standing perfectly still and watching with some amusement the zigzag movements of the other, now close upon him.
Ferd was mounted on a new motor-cycle, purchased with savings out of his pocket money, and with which machine he had been of late scouring the surrounding country.
Evidently the little motor had broken down while he was some distance away from home, necessitating considerable walking up hill and hard pedalling on the levels.
Weary, and over-heated by his exertions, he was naturally in an ugly temper at the time he met Dick on the narrowest place along the entire road, where a ditch on one side and a fence on the other, left only enough room for a single vehicle at a time to pass.
Just then, judging from his erratic swinging from side to side, Ferd needed the whole road, and seeing this, the other lad stood by, ready to guard himself if the cumbersome machine headed his way.
His suspicions as to the intentions of Ferd to run him down seemed well founded, for, pretending to be unable to control the heavy machine, the rider came lunging directly at the standing boy, who would have been struck only for a quick leap to one side, by means of which he avoided a collision.
But alas! the edge of the road was closer than Ferd had calculated on when maliciously endeavoring to give the pedestrian a scare, and as a consequence the motor-cycle plunged down into the ditch.
Ferd managed through a quick effort to leap off his seat just in time to avoid being overwhelmed in the disaster.
He scrambled to his feet choking with both dust and anger.
His beautiful machine lay with its front buried in the water of the ditch, and the sight was so disagreeable that Ferd seemed to lose what little discretion he generally boasted.
"There, see what you've done, Dick Morrison!" he exclaimed, fiercely.
"Well, now, I like that," answered the other, hardly knowing whether to laugh or show indignation; "you try to run me down, and when I step out of the way to avoid an upset you accuse me of having had a hand in the mess. Why did you jump off when by a twist of the handlebars you could have saved the machine? Suppose you blame yourself, not me."
"But you saw that I had lost control, and if you'd only wanted you could have stopped its plunge; but you'd rather see me get into a peck of trouble. How d'ye suppose I'm ever going to lug that heavy thing back up to the road now?" demanded Ferd, spitefully.
"Oh! I don't mind giving you a hand at that. I hate to see such a fine machine lying in the mud like a mired cow," declared Dick, cheerfully.
Ferd looked at him dubiously, as though his spirit urged him to decline the generous offer of assistance made by one he chose to regard as his enemy; but the road was lonely, no one might come along for some time to help him, and the motor-cycle was too heavy for him to drag out of the hole unassisted.
So he swallowed his pride, and grudgingly allowed Dick to take hold on one side while he dragged at the other, and in this fashion the machine was speedily placed once more on dry land.
Of course it was pretty well soiled, and did not look very much like the spick-and-span new wheel that a few days back had been the envy of every boy in Riverview.
Dick, who could not bear to see anything abused, immediately snatched up a handful of grass from the side of the road under the fence, and commenced to wipe the worst of the muck away.
"Never mind bothering yourself about that; I guess I can attend to it when I get home. It wouldn't have happened anyway if I hadn't met you on the road," said Ferd, with a return of his bitterness.
Dick looked at him queerly, and then threw down the rough wiper he had been using.
"I guess you're right. And as I didn't do anything to trouble you it looks as if you just wanted to knock me into the ditch. It's a case of the biter bitten, Ferd. When you see me helping you pull your old machine out of the ditch again you'll know it."
Filled with indignation he turned and walked rapidly away, leaving the other looking after him, still angry and yet perhaps somewhat ashamed in the bargain.
This was not the first time these two lads found themselves facing one another with fire in their eyes.
In school they seemed to be constantly ranged on opposite sides, and the rivalry had extended into many of the natural pastimes indulged in by growing boys, from baseball in the summer to football in the autumn and skating and hockey in the winter.
The rivalry seemed unequal from one point of view, since Ferd was the only son of Archibald Graylock, proprietor of the big department store in the town, and known as a wealthy man; while Dick lived in an humble cottage with his mother, a widow, and their circumstances had been growing more and more straightened during the last year, so that our hero was seriously contemplating giving up all hope of attending school again in the fall, and seeking a position.
Dick's father had been a carpenter known for his many good qualities; he had by frugality and prudence saved a sum which had been invested as he thought judiciously, and would serve as a means of support to his little family in case anything happened to him.
Seriously injured in an accident he had lingered for nearly a year and then been taken, leaving the mother and son to face the world. For several years things went along smoothly, for Mrs. Morrison was an excellent housekeeper, and could make a dollar go a great ways without appearing to be niggardly; but unexpected misfortune overtook them, and the company in which most of the carpenter's savings had been invested struck a reef, so that not only did the little income cease from this source but there was danger that the principal might also be lost.
This was the serious condition of affairs in Dick's home at the time he met his bitter rival on the road; he had been buried in thought, trying to see what his duty might be, and as he continued on after leaving Ferd he endeavored to forget the unpleasant incident, and resume his planning.
Chances for work were not very abundant in and around Riverview.
Dick knew little about farming, and besides, even though he should secure a job in that line he was aware that most farmers insisted upon their help being on the ground all the time, as they had to get out long before daylight to feed the stock, and since he could not leave his mother alone he had to pass any such opportunity by.
There was the bank of which Mr. Gibbs was president; he had always yearned to do something along that line; but having no experience he had never dared apply for a position there, though envying Charles Doty, who ran messages and made himself generally useful in the bank, "learning the ropes, so that in time he could step into Mr. Gibbs' shoes," as he used often to say with pride.
For a lad with business ambitions there remained only the two grocery stores, and the grand emporium conducted by Mr. Graylock, an institution he chose to call a department store, and which covered quite a large space of ground.
Strange to say Dick had just been making up his mind to call on this latter enterprising merchant and solicit an opening, at the time he met the hopeful son on the road, and had another disagreeable experience with Ferd; indeed, it seemed as though they could never come together without some trouble arising, though Dick had resolved time and again that he would not be the first to pick a quarrel.
Now he reflected that it was almost useless approaching Mr. Graylock, for he felt sure that the gentleman must have heard about the time when he and Ferd engaged in a rough and tumble fight on the baseball field, after the other had deliberately struck him, and called him a coward because he was so slow to take off his coat and engage in a combat that proved to be rather gory for Ferd—yes, he knew this must be the case, for his mother had looked serious for some little time, and he heard that the rich man was seen leaving their humble cottage one afternoon while he was away.
So he felt undecided as to what he should attempt, and all the way home he pondered over the situation, determined to do something to chase away the look of concern which every now and then he saw gathering on his mother's gentle face, when she did not dream that he was observing her.
"She doesn't want me to know how hard things are growing," he mused. "She thinks of me all the time, and is the dearest little mother in the world. I'd give up anything for her, and I'm going to find a position somewhere, somehow. That's settled. There's got to be more money coming in through the door of the Morrisons, and it's up to Richard to set the stream in motion."
His resolution was all very well, but it was not so easy to decide where this fountain could be tapped that was to pour its tiny golden stream into their almost empty reservoir.
Again and again he shook his head resolutely as he trudged along, and the expression on his face was that of one who has made up his mind and will not allow himself to be turned aside by any obstacle; it was the look of a winner, and when his mates saw Dick Morrison set his teeth in that determined way they knew he was bound to lead his side to victory, no matter what the opposition.
Dick presently drew near the little cottage in which he and his mother had lived ever since he could remember, and which, with its flower garden, was as pretty a spot as one could find along the river road just outside the town.
Thinking only of showing a cheery face to the one who had ever been his best friend and counsellor on earth he tried to forget his worries, and starting to whistle merrily opened the gate and passed up the walk.
A MOTHER WORTH FIGHTING FOR
Perhaps had Dick been less noisy as he came up the walk he might have caught his mother in tears; for he felt sure he detected the signs of recent weeping upon her thin face as he entered and threw the package he was carrying on the table.
"I'm glad you found Mrs. Oliver at home," said Mrs. Morrison, "and she had the work ready. I can start on it to-night, and perhaps finish the whole thing this week," and she opened the package, and examined the goods that had been in the wrapper.
"You're working too hard as it is, mother," said Dick, putting an arm around her and looking up into her face, "and I've determined that this sort of thing just can't go on any longer."
"What do you mean, my son?" she asked. "You know that since I am a good needle-woman and the times are so hard with us just at present, I am fortunate to be able to get work from several of the ladies around Riverview. Perhaps it will not have to be for long, Dick, dear."
"I know it won't if I have any say in the matter. You're sitting up every night sewing long after I've gone to bed. Why, one night, you remember I woke up and it was after twelve, yet you were still sewing. You are getting thin and careworn, mother. Do you think I don't notice it? And do you imagine I can stand it right along? There has got to be a change, that's all. I've made my mind up."
She looked into his resolute face, and seeing the love that shone in his eyes felt that after all her burdens could not be so hard when Heaven had given her such a stalwart son to be the staff of her old age.
"And what have you decided, Dick? Will you get after that company and force them to begin paying dividends again? I think that would be a blessing to more widows than one; but I'm afraid it would prove a task beyond your strength, dear," she said, patting him on the head as he stood beside her, almost three inches taller than his mother.
"No, I don't think I could manage that, but there is one thing I can and will do and that is to find a job, so that I can be bringing in something every week to help out. Then you needn't sit up at night as you do. Please don't say anything against it, mother. I've made up my mind to it. The vacation has begun, and unless things take a turn for the better, school and Dick Morrison have parted company for good. I'm only sorry I don't seem to have inherited any of father's genius for tools, or I could get a position as an assistant to Mr. Plane, the carpenter. But I've been considering the situation, and I'm going to find some way to bring in a few dollars each week, even if I have to set out to be a fisherman."
She smiled with pride, and in that moment the fond mother did not envy the wife of the rich department store keeper who rode about in her carriage and delighted to let other people realize just how small and mean they appeared in her sight.
"Well, it is nice to hear you say all that, Richard, for it tells me that your heart is true, and that no matter what befalls I can depend on my boy's love. But there's no use crossing a river before we come to it. I shall offer no opposition to you doing any honest work that comes your way during vacation; and if times have not improved when school opens again, I suppose I must endure the thought of your continuing on. You have always been a lucky fisherman, and what you bring home has been so sweet and palatable that it seems to me you could easily find purchasers for all you could catch," she said, leaving him, to begin to look after the supper that was cooking on the stove.
"Only if everything else fails can I try that," he explained. "You see one can't depend on the fish to do their part of the contract. Some days they refuse to bite at all, and then other days are stormy. But I've got several ideas that I'm bound to try out, and I'm going to start to-morrow."
That was all he said, for Dick never liked to boast in advance of what he expected to accomplish, having learned from sad experience that very often a snag is apt to sink the craft freighted with hopes, and when least expected.
He busied himself setting the table, while his mother lighted the lamp and prepared to serve their frugal meal.
It was a time of year when very little came in from the small garden that lay back of the house, and which they took care of in common, Dick doing all the hard work and his mother some of the weeding; later on they expected that the proceeds from this patch would provide many a good meal, should the weather smile upon their united efforts.
Being naturally a boy who looked upon the bright side of things, as a healthy lad might be expected to do, Dick had proved a blessing to his mother times without number.
He laughed and chatted as they sat at the table, and for the time being the poor little woman really forgot that there was such a thing as anxiety in this world.
Even the little encounter with Ferd was related with more or less humor; and yet while Mrs. Morrison found herself compelled to smile at Dick's quaint description of the way in which Ferd over-leaped himself, at the same time a shade of worry crept over her face.
"Oh! I hope he will not tell his father about it and try to lay the blame on your shoulders," she said, sighing.
"But why should he, mother? I had nothing to do with it, and never even touched his old motor-cycle until I offered to help him get it out of the ditch? Now you never told me that Mr. Graylock came around to complain about me that other time, but I guessed it all the same. It was just like him to threaten that he would do something awful if I ever put a hand on his precious son again. Poor little fellow, he's only three inches taller than me. You know I told you all about that trouble at the time, mother?" he expostulated, indignantly.
"Yes, yes, so you did, my son, and I told Mr. Graylock that you could not have been to blame—that after all it was only a boyish dispute, and no serious damage had been done. He called you a bully and a terror, and said he would make an example of you if it ever happened again. Oh! he frightened me so."
"The old wretch, to come and talk that way to a lady, and she a widow, too. What do you suppose father would have done to him if he had been alive? Nearly every boy there will tell you I refused to fight up to the time he struck me in the face and called me mean names. Then I commenced. Perhaps I did hit him a little harder than I should, but I was stirred up, and meant to teach him to leave me alone after that. I guess I did it all right," and Dick, boy-like, smiled grimly as, in imagination he could see the deplorable condition of his antagonist when Ferd humbly admitted that he had had enough.
"But you see it happened that his father met him on the road while his face was all covered with blood. It was only because he had been struck on the nose; but it looked terrible to his father, and angered him. I hope you will not have any trouble with that ill-natured boy again, son," she said, earnestly.
"I never want to, mother, nor with any fellow; but there's a limit even to the patience of Job. Father always taught me never to seek a quarrel; but at the same time never to run away from one like a coward. I try to follow his advice, mother."
"Yes, I am sure you do. And your father was a peaceable man; yet I can remember once or twice when he took off his coat and thrashed a bully until he howled for mercy. In fact, to tell the truth, that was the way I first made his acquaintance as a boy, for he came to my assistance when a big ruffian of an overgrown coward had stopped me on the road and declared he was going to kiss me. Of course I screamed and your father, then a lad learning the carpenter trade, jumped from the roof of a kitchen near by and came to my rescue."
She laughed as the recollection came back to her mind, and once again she could see the young man she had loved for many years standing up as her knight; Dick too looked pleased at hearing how the father he remembered so well had been ready to defend the right.
"I don't think Ferd will say anything about this last little adventure. You see his father was opposed to his getting that motor-cycle, for he said it would be just like Ferd to have an accident, and perhaps get his neck broken. And to tell the truth, a little later on if nothing else turns up I mean to try and get work in Mr. Graylock's store. It's a busy place, and he might give me a chance. He's a deacon in the church, and I've often heard him tell how all of us ought to heap coals of fire on our enemy's head by doing him a good turn. I'm going to put him to the test, mother. Perhaps he may turn out better than we think, who knows?"
"I hope so, dear. I like to think the best of all men; but Mr. Graylock is most unreasonable when angered."
After supper Dick insisted upon his mother sitting down to rest while he washed the few dishes; it was a regular employment with him; not that he liked the job, but it gave him satisfaction to know that he was relieving her from some of the drudgery of the housework.
Later on he busied himself in looking over a lot of fishlines and hooks, since he was bent upon carrying out his scheme for business in case nothing better came up on the morrow.
No one knew better than Dick where the fish lay, and his success in securing a string of the finny beauties had long been the envy of his mates; he had always loved to study the habits of the bass and other denizens of the little river that gave the pretty town its name; and it was really this knowledge that brought about his reward when others went home almost empty-handed.
He lay awake a long time that night, looking out of his window at the bright star that had for many a year peeped in through the window of his little room, and in some way cheered him by its twinkling; he laid many plans for the immediate future, and somehow just the thought of the smile upon the careworn face of his little mother seemed an inspiration, urging him to greater efforts.
Thus he pictured the day when he would be successful in business, and when want would no longer confront them at the door; when he could surround this dear one with all the comforts and perhaps some of the luxuries that other women delighted in, and with such noble ambitions soothing him Dick finally fell asleep.
DICK'S FIRST WAGES
Immediately after breakfast on the following morning Dick started out upon his search for employment.
He did not know how far he might have to tramp in scouring the surrounding country, and so asked his mother to let him put him up a "snack" which would help to tide him over the noon hour, if he happened to be at a distance from home.
As he turned and looking back waved his hand to her just as he had always done since the first day he went to school, she felt that it was hard indeed that her boy should have to be thrown on the world to make a living when others among his schoolmates had pleasant homes, and well-to-do parents to care for them.
But Dick never allowed himself to look at things in that way; he felt within him the spirit to do and dare that leads to success if persisted in, and he was grimly determined not to allow himself feel any discouragement even should he meet with failure right and left.
He had heard just the preceding day that the miller down the river road was looking for a boy to assist him, since his son was sick, and it was toward the quaint old mill, driven by water from the little river, that he first of all turned his steps.
As he trudged along about half a mile beyond the outskirts of the town he discovered a vehicle some little distance ahead, apparently stalled.
Something had happened, for the driver was on the ground and appeared to be busy trying to mend a break in the harness, or something still more serious.
As he drew nearer Dick saw first of all that the man was Mr. Cartwright, the miller, the very man he was intending to see, and the next thing he noticed was that the loaded wagon was tilted on one side, showing that a wheel must have given away, threatening a complete collapse.
He hurried up, wondering if his lucky star might not be in the ascendant just then, the opportunity to get in the good graces of the miller seeming so good.
The dusty miller was scratching his head in puzzled wonder at just the minute Dick arrived on the scene.
"Good morning, Mr. Cartwright. You seem to have met with an accident," remarked the boy, as he came alongside.
The man looked up with interest, to show more or less disappointment when he found that it was only a boy who had arrived.
"It's you, is it, Dick? Yes, I've broken down at last. Twenty years more or less I've carried loads back and forth between my mill and the town, and never once in all that time have I had such an accident. The wheel is giving way. If I try to go on it will smash entirely, and perhaps part of my load be thrown off. How to get home is a question I am trying to decide. I hate to unload. If I had another wheel and a jack here I might get around the trouble."
"I could get them for you, sir; or if you thought best we could take a rail from the fence here and use it to hold up the load while you crept home. It isn't a great way off, you know," remarked Dick, quickly.
"Do you think we could fix it with a rail lashed under the axle? I've seen it done with an empty wagon but never with a full one," exclaimed the miller, brightening up.
"By changing a part of the load, and throwing it over on the side where there are two sound wheels I think it could be managed, sir," replied Dick, and there was such an air of conviction about his smiling face that the miller seemed to be convinced even against his own judgment.
"Well, now, it might go, and I've half a mind to try it. Can you give me a hand, Dick, or are you in a hurry?" he asked.
"No hurry at all, sir, and only too glad to help you if I can," and in a jiffy he had hurried to the fence, selected the stoutest rail in sight, and was back again at the side of the man who was in trouble.
They first of all shifted the cargo as much as possible, so as to throw the greater part of the weight on the left side of the wagon, thus relieving the strain on the broken wheel.
Fortunately the miller had plenty of rope along under his seat, and after they had united their strength to raise that end of the wagon by means of other rails, the one that had been selected as a drag was securely lashed into place.
Thus the broken wheel did not come in contact with the road, and when the patient old horse was set in motion the vehicle shuffled along after a fashion.
"The missus'll think I'm coming home like a whipped dog with his tail between his legs, but it's a case of any port in a storm, and I'm glad to get back without throwing off this whole load. I'm sure obliged to you, Dick, for the lift you gave me, and I won't forget it either. P'raps some day I can pay it back."
Of course that was the proper time to strike, while the iron was hot, and Dick knew it well enough.
"Why, I was just on my way here to see you, Mr. Cartwright. I heard that you wanted some one to assist you, and as I'm looking for work I thought I'd apply for the job. I'm strong, and I think able to do what you want," he hastened to say.
The miller looked at him with a smile.
"Well, now, I'd like to give you work first rate, Dick, boy; after the way you fixed me up this morning I reckon you're a right handy sort of a boy to have around. But you see I expect my son Toby to be well enough in a few days to get onto his regular business again. If you cared to tackle the work till then I'd sure be glad to have you. It's my busy time, and I'm falling behind every day. You could be a great help to me, only the job is apt to be a short one," he remarked.
"It might help out, Mr. Cartwright. You know my mother is in trouble over that investment, and times are going hard with us. I mean to get to work at once, and try to make it easier for her. I'll take the job while it lasts, sir," and he threw off his coat with a business-like air that pleased the old miller.
"But see here, Dick, we ain't made no terms. I paid Toby twenty a month, and his board. Would a dollar and a quarter a day satisfy you, son? A special job like this always commands higher wages, you know," he inquired, eagerly, for he had been wondering how he could keep up with his orders while shorthanded.
"It suits me first-rate, sir. Only wish it would keep right along—not that I would like to have Toby sick you understand. And, now if you will show me just what I'm to start on I'll get to work."
"Say, I like that kind of talk. I reckon you and me will pull together all right, Dick. I knowed your father many years, and if so be the boy has got some of his grit and go in his make-up there ain't no fear but he'll get there."
It filled Dick with a sense of deepest satisfaction to realize that he was actually earning real money; and again and again he pictured the look of happiness that he knew would flash over the face of his mother when he told her of his success; of course the job was only a temporary one, but then it certainly seemed like the harbinger of other good things to come.
He whistled at his work, and the miller thought this merry-hearted lad was worth having around as an inspiration, even though he might not be as sturdy a worker as his big-muscled Toby.
But Dick was possessed of indomitable pluck, and after he grew a little accustomed to the work he thoroughly satisfied his employer.
At noon he heard a conch shell blown, and washing up as Mr. Cartwright had directed him, he proceeded to the house, where he sat down to a bountiful spread that was certainly a joyous sight in the eyes of a hungry boy.
He only wished the little mother were sitting beside him instead of big Toby, now well on the road to recovery.
And all that afternoon, when he felt tired from the unusual employment of his muscles, he cheered himself up with the thought of how proud he would be to place that first dollar and a quarter in the hand of the waiting little woman in the cottage by the river bank—for it was one of the miller's peculiarities to do a cash business, and pay any one working for him each day after the hour for stopping arrived.
It was a tiresome walk back to town and then out home, but Dick strode along with a light heart, and having changed his mind about his homecoming stopped in town to buy something in the way of groceries which he knew would fill a long-felt want at home.
In the gloaming then he arrived, to find his mother beginning to grow nervous over his long absence; and only when her arms were about his neck he told of his success in obtaining work.
Doubly sweet was the humble fare that night, for he felt that he had really done his part toward the support of the Morrison family, and that he was in a fair road toward filling that place at the head made vacant by the death of his father.
IN SEARCH OF A JOB
The job with the miller lasted just five days.
Then Toby, having declared himself ready to take up his duties, Mr. Cartwright was compelled to let Dick go, for he really had no need of his help, since things were running in their natural channel, all the back work having been cleaned up under the energetic push of young Morrison.
"I'm really sorry to lose you, Dick, boy. You've done all right, and if I ever have need of a helper again I'd like nothing better than to call on you. If I hear of an opening I'll sure let you know," the miller said, that evening as he placed the last pay in the boy's hand.
Mrs. Cartwright had taken considerable interest in all she had heard about Dick from her husband, and being a woman of discernment she knew that a boy who was so fond of his mother as he seemed to be could not go very far wrong in life.
She came out to shake hands with him, and she carried a package too that she gave into his charge.
"It's a new kind of cake I've been trying lately. My sister away out in Boston sent me the recipe. Tell her I want her to try it, and if she wants the directions I'll be glad to send 'em to her. Good-bye, Dick. I hope you find a good steady job soon. Come in and see us whenever you happen to be passing, and if it's nigh dinner time we'll be glad to have you jine us."
Dick felt that he had indeed made good friends in this, his first position, and the thought brought with it such solid satisfaction that he determined to profit by the circumstance in the future; he was young in years but already he had begun to see that one cannot have too many friends and well wishers in life.
Once again he was grappling with the problem as to what he should do in order to continue this method of assisting to lighten the many burdens that had fallen on the shoulders of his mother.
Just as he neared the town he heard a great spluttering behind him and stepped aside to allow the party on the motor-cycle to pass; as he suspected it was Ferd Graylock returning from a little whirl around the country, and cutting his customary wide swathe along the road.
He happened to recognize Dick as he swept by with a popping from the exhaust, and shutting off power applied the brake so that he came to a stop.
Dick was surprised and a little annoyed.
He hoped that Ferd did not mean to be as disagreeable as usual, and perhaps force him into a war of words, or even worse; and remembering what he had promised the anxious little inmate of the rose cottage, he shut his teeth hard with the firm determination not to be drawn into a row if it could possibly be avoided.
As he walked on he presently came up to where the other stood, with one foot on the ground, balancing his machine and ready to go on again slowly, pedalling as Dick tramped.
"Hello! Dick. Thought that was you. You jumped just in time or I might have hit you a nasty blow. Fact is I was forgetting that the beastly old town was so close by. Hear you've been working down at old Cartwright's mill. Got a steady job?"
Dick was surprised at being spoken to in this fashion by the one whom he had grown to look upon as his inveterate enemy, and who in the past had never addressed him save to utter some sneering insult; could it be that after all there was a spark of decency in Ferd, and that when he came to reflect on how shabbily he had treated the boy who had shown such willingness to help him drag his motor-cycle out of the ditch, he was a little ashamed of his actions?
Dick was quick to seize the olive branch, though rather skeptical with regard to what it could really mean.
"I have been working there five days, and would like to keep right along only Toby has got well enough to go on his job again. Now I must look around and see if I can find something else to do, for I've got to bring in some money to help out at home, you know," he replied.
He could see the sneer upon Ferd's lip, for that young man had never earned one cent in all his life, and foolishly looked down upon the unfortunate boy whom fortune compelled to face the world and wrest his living from it.
"I was thinking of you when I heard my governor say he wanted more help. Perhaps you might strike a job there. I'll even put in a good word for you to-night. Of course you understand that I'm not doing this because I like you any better than before, but you did me a half decent turn yesterday, and I'm not the one to forget it. Besides I don't want to see a dog starve if I can help him by raising my hand. Come around and see the old man to-morrow, and perhaps he'll offer you something."
The cool patronizing manner of the fellow when he said this galled Dick exceedingly, and had it been only himself whom he had to consider he would have snapped his fingers in Ferd's face.
But then he reflected that the other was doing him what he considered a very great favor, and that of late he had had that old saying to the effect that "beggars should not be choosers" rubbed into his soul.
So he crushed down the natural feeling of resentment that arose in his heart, and tried to act as though he were really grateful for the crumb thrown down to him with such scorn.
"That's good of you to think of me at all, Ferd. I'll see your father to-morrow without fail. I hope he can offer me a job that will give me something like the sum Mr. Cartwright has been paying me," he replied, quietly.
"How much was that?" asked the other, contemptuously.
"At the rate of seven dollars and a half a full week," answered Dick.
Ferd whistled to signify his skepticism.
"You're yarning, Dick. I don't believe he gave you half that. Anyhow, I'm dead sure dad'll never think of paying such big wages. He can get all the help he needs at three dollars a week," remarked Ferd, preparing to start up his machine and go ahead, since his object had been accomplished, and he had the peculiar satisfaction of knowing that he had after a fashion put that upstart Dick Morrison down a peg or two even while making himself out to be a generous, forgiving fellow.
Dick saw him speed away with a renewed splutter and a cloud of dust, while to himself he was saying:
"Three dollars a week will never satisfy me just now. I am strong enough to be earning a dollar a day on a farm, and we have too big a need of the money to take a position at less. I can make more than that fishing, counting the good days and the bad as they run. And I'm afraid there might be trouble for me if once Archibald Graylock had me under his thumb. He would find some opportunity to accuse me of something I hadn't done and discharge me in disgrace. I'll go and see him all right, but if we fail to come to terms I won't be much disappointed. I'll keep everlastingly at it until I strike my gait, just as Grant did when he was fighting the battles of the Wilderness. And I'm going to get there, I must, I will!"
Again he stopped in town to make some purchases.
The store of Ezra Squires was well patronized, for he kept a pretty fair assortment of necessities in the line of groceries, sometimes exchanging tea and coffee with the country people for butter and eggs, which he shipped into Boston when he had a quantity.
Ezra and Dick had never gotten on very well together somehow.
To tell the truth, the grocer had once played a very small game with the widow, and when Dick learned of it he had come and told Mr. Squires just what he thought of such contemptible actions; at the time several persons heard all that was said, and Ezra felt that he was in rather bad odor in certain circles.
That was a good while back, and people had forgotten the circumstances; but he had never quite forgiven the lad who in defense of his mother had so boldly taken him to task before some of his customers.
Ezra had a small nature, and it harbored the spirit of a mean revenge; so that he was forever looking for a chance to get even with the boy.
"You don't happen to want any help, Mr. Squires," asked Dick, as he was about to leave the store, and the old man came to the door to open it, seeing how the boy was laden down with bundles.
"Not just now. I might be changing any time, though, that Abner is sore tryin' on a man's patience. He never does anything right, it seems," replied the other, looking at Dick keenly.
"What wages do you pay, in case you needed anyone, and I applied for the job?"
"Four dollars and find yourself, and no snacking in the store out of the cracker barrel and cheese bin," came the quick response.
"It strikes me that's pretty small pay for the long hours here, and the heavy work you require," remarked Dick.
"Kin get lots of help at that price. This ain't Boston, you understand, and wages is low in Riverview. I'm not askin' anybody to come here. If Abner goes there'll be jest a dozen arter his job in an hour," replied the grocer, sarcastically.
"Perhaps there will, but you won't find me among them, Mr. Squires. I'm willing to work and work hard, but I think a fellow deserves a living wage. You can't get a woman to come and wash for you at less than a dollar a day, and they talk of putting the price up a quarter. What are the hours here?"
"I guess it don't interest you any, young feller. Seems like you be too high-toned fur this sorter work. Might try the bank and see what Mr. Harvey Gibbs kin offer you," and so saying Ezra slammed the door shut behind Dick, thus bringing to a termination the interview that was not proving very pleasant to him personally.
"Perhaps I am too high in my notions; perhaps my first job has spoiled me for a three dollar a week position, but it does seem as though all the chances open to me are going to come from the few men I'd hate to be with above all others. Well, I'll make a try of it to-morrow, and if there's nothing in sight I know where I can dig some good bait, and the weather promises to be fine for fishing."
So talking to himself Dick set out for home, fairly well satisfied with his beginning as a business man; it was an humble opening to be sure, assisting a miller run his grist, but the work was interesting and the pay had not only been good but he had made friends that might prove of benefit to him at some future day.
MR. GRAYLOCK RECEIVES A SURPRISE
While they were eating supper that evening and Dick had told his mother all that had happened during the day, not forgetting the contemptible words of the close-fisted grocer, he noticed that she looked even a shade sadder than usual.
"What has happened to make you feel badly, mother?" he asked, catching her eyes at last.
"I did not mean to tell you until after supper, my boy, but since you have been so observing I suppose I must do it now," she replied, turning a bit red.
"Then I was right, and something has upset you. Have you had a letter?"
She nodded her head in the affirmative.
"From the lawyer you engaged to look up that company?"
"Yes, from Mr. Brief. He writes that so far as he can see just at present there is no prospect for the company resuming the paying of dividends. He says that it is a dull time in the manufacturing business, and it may be months, perhaps a year or so before things come around again," she replied, trying hard to keep the tears back.
"Still, there is no fear of the company going to smash, is there, so that you would lose all you have invested there?" persisted Dick.
"Mr. Brief says he does not really fear that. He also writes that we might be able to sell our stock, but since it would have to be sacrificed just now most shamefully he advised that we hold on as long as we can. If it comes to a point of desperation I am to let him know, and he will do the best he can for me."
"Well, I wouldn't let that worry me, mother. I consider it so much better news than I expected that I feel like shouting. We will hold out! I'm going to help you right along now. And some fine day we'll wake up to hear that the old company has blossomed out again bigger than ever, and that our stock is worth just twice what it was before. I've read about these games they play to freeze people out. If I'm going to take father's place you must let me see that letter. I want to be posted on all that is going on."
After that sort of talk Mrs. Morrison could no longer feel that new trouble had descended upon them; so bringing out the lawyer's letter she and her boy talked it all over, and between the lines she now discovered many a ray of hope that had not appeared there when she sat, alone and dispirited, reading it for the first time.
It was really impossible to give way to despondency while Dick Morrison was in close touch with one; he had such a sunny nature and always chose to look on the bright side of things that somehow he seemed to transfer some of his optimism to those with whom he came in contact.
And so the little woman, when she retired, felt that the spirit of his father had indeed descended to the son, and that she need not have any fear with regard to Dick making his way in the world.
As he had promised himself, Dick applied to Mr. Graylock in the morning for a position.
The big store was not very busy at that time, most of their trade coming in the afternoon and evening, so that he found the proprietor in his office engaged in dictating letters to a girl stenographer.
When he had finished he beckoned to Dick to come into his cubby-hole den where an opening afforded him a chance to keep his eye on all that was going on in the store, from bookkeepers to the clerks behind the various counters.
Mr. Archibald Graylock was a very stern and harsh man, with an eye that seemed to penetrate to the very soul of the party with whom he held converse.
Those in his employ led a dog's life of it, for he would brook no trifling, and from the time they entered the door until they left not one minute could they call their own; no one might tell just when that cold, calculating green eye was fixed upon them; so there never was the least sign of skylarking or even friendly communion in that big establishment while the proprietor was present, and that meant pretty much the live-long day, and every day in the week.
Dick had never liked him; no one else did for that matter, though many people toadied to Mr. Graylock simply because he was reputed to be one of the richest merchants in Riverview.
And since he had heard how this man had, like a big bully, frightened his poor little mother with his ugly threats, Dick disliked him more than ever; but since he had come here seeking employment he knew that it would be foolish for him to give any indication of such a feeling.
"Sit down there, boy," said the big man, indicating with a lordly gesture a chair so placed that while he talked he could also keep an eye on the store by means of that special opening.
When he spoke in a bragging or a bullying tone Archibald Graylock was accustomed to elevating his voice so that the men at the bookkeepers' desk could easily hear all he said; perhaps he could not help being loud in his ways, but there were those who said he did it simply to make an impression on his employees, and show the groveling worms what a great man they served.
Dick sat down, holding his hat between his hands, and not feeling at all confident that he would have even a chance to accept any offer at the hands of this nabob of Riverview, for he fancied that Mr. Graylock, by his frown, meant to simply make use of the opportunity to read him a lecture, haul him over the coals, and then perhaps publicly insult him.
"My son tells me you are in want of employment, and also that he magnanimously chose to overlook the many times you have gone out of your way to do spiteful things to him, to tell you to come and see me. Is this so, boy?" exclaimed the magnate, tapping his pencil savagely on his desk as though he were pounding in a moral lesson that it would well pay Dick to heed.
"He told me to see you, yes, sir; and I am looking for some employment so that I can assist my mother meet expenses. You know the circumstances, perhaps, Mr. Graylock, and how nearly all we have is tied up in a big manufacturing company that has closed its plant for a season, so that our dividends are cut off. That makes it hard for mother, and I am determined to get a job somewhere that will go part way toward paying our bills."
Dick spoke as respectfully as he possibly could, although there was not the least sign of encouragement in the manner of the other.
"Yes, I happen to know more about that circumstance than most people, for I did my best to induce Morrison to go in with me and found this lucrative business. If he had done so he might to-day have been a wealthy man; or at least his widow would be beyond all want. But every one isn't gifted with the same amount of business acumen. A few will always find their way to the top. Now, I consider that you are showing a spirit of humility in coming to me to beg a position in my employ. Probably you regret that you have in the past been such a rowdy, and will endeavor to change your ways once you come under my jurisdiction. We have a reputation to sustain in this establishment, young man. You would have to try and be a gentleman here. Take a lesson from my son, who so nobly forgave your boorish actions, and hearing that you and your mother were in want kindly interceded with me to forget the past. I cannot disappoint such a charitable spirit, and I am about to take you into my employ at the advice of Ferdinand. Can you start to work at once, Richard?"
The boy had turned red and then white as he heard these phrases uttered in the loud voice of the magnate. Of course those men at the long desk caught every word, and perhaps half the clerks in the store as well, though no one dared so much as raise their eyes to glance that way.
Indignant at his treatment Dick arose from his seat.
"What wages do you pay, Mr. Graylock?" he asked, though positive that he could never under any circumstances work for this pompous and cruel man.
"We have been giving two and a half a week, but since you are older than the last boy we had I shall make your wages three. You will ask for Mr. Jones, and he can put you to work?" replied the other, with a wave of the hand meant to indicate that the interview was ended, and that he could spare no more of his valuable time on so trivial a subject.
"I guess I won't take the job, Mr. Graylock. I have been getting seven and a half working for Mr. Cartwright, the miller. If I meet any boy who will fill your bill I'll send him in to see you. Good day, sir," and so saying Dick walked out of the office, leaving the big man staring after him as though he had received a severe shock.
As he passed by the row of busy bookkeepers Dick caught a chuckle from one, while another, under cover of his big open ledger thrust out his hand and seizing on the sleeve of Dick's coat gave it several little nudges as if trying to indicate how thoroughly they enjoyed his independent way of taking the supercilious nabob down a peg, for no one in his employ dared to call his soul his own; if he had, he would never have remained there a single day.
Dick had not intended to be impudent, even though the arrogant manner in which Mr. Graylock had patronized him, and compared him to his disadvantage with his paragon of a son, had cut him to the quick.
He felt certain he would have been even more unhappy in that establishment than if he had taken service with Ezra Squires.
Still Dick would not allow himself to feel cast down; these two men did not constitute the whole business section of Riverview, and somehow he believed that in good time he would surely come upon a congenial place where he might receive living wages for his best work, and not feel that he was in the employ of a tyrant.
BOUND FOR THE OLD FISHING HOLE
While he was at it Dick visited every place where he fancied there was the least chance of finding an opening.
The result was not very encouraging.
In nearly every instance he was greeted with a negative shake of the head, and the information that since the dull summer season was at hand, instead of taking on more help the chances were there would be less required.
When he came to the substantial stone building in which the bank of Harvey Gibbs had its quarters, he hesitated, and heaved a sigh, for it seemed folly to think of venturing in there, much as he yearned to go.
And as he stood taking a longing look through the fine plate glass windows where he could see several men at work on the books, and the cashier just getting ready to wait on the first customer of the morning, who should come tripping along the street but consequential Charles Doty, the boy who ran messages for the bank, and made himself generally useful between times, looking toward the time when he was to be elevated to the president's chair, as he often whimsically declared.
Charles was prone to indulge in early morning naps, and there were times when he could be seen sneaking into the bank long after he was supposed to be at work. Still, he could stir himself when the necessity arose, and thus far had managed to hold his position.
At sight of Dick looking so longingly into the bank he was brought to a sudden halt, and something like suspicion flashed into his eyes.
Doubtless he knew of the other's yearning toward the life of a bank clerk, and it may be that he feared Dick was about to try and supplant him in the job he had been holding so long.
At any rate Charles, though already late, thought it good policy to stop and engage his friend in a brief conversation, meaning to convince Dick as to the utter folly of ever thinking he could obtain a situation under so strict a business man as Mr. Gibbs.
"Hello! Dick. What you thinking about now? Look like you meant to come around here some fine night and swipe the entire business. Beware of bulldogs and traps for the unwary, my boy. We keep a heavy guard over our millions," he laughed.
Dick showed no signs of resentment, knowing that this was only boyish badinage, and he understood Charles even better than the other imagined.
"Don't lie awake nights for fear of my breaking in and running off with your whole establishment, Charlie. I haven't even got the price of the wagon that might be needed to cart away the gold. But I did have designs on the place, in one way. Do you happen to know how business is just now, and whether the bank has need of any more help? I'd be willing to act as porter, or anything else for the sake of getting started in there," with a wistful look through the open window toward the busy interior of the enclosure where the cashier and teller were working like a hive of busy bees.
"I guess the porter racket hasn't a leg to stand on, for you see they've got a man and his family on the payroll, and he looks after the furnace in the winter, as well as does all the sweeping out and such menial tasks. But it might be possible that they could make room for you as my assistant. You see duties have kept piling up on me all the time, and I'm the hardest worked man in the institution just at the present minute."
Charles did not even smile as he made this monstrous assertion; he saw his opportunity for tying the hands of the other, and was slyly playing his little game with that idea in view.
Dick did not believe one half that the other said, and yet he was so anxious to get in touch with some one in this place of business that he could not see any harm in pretending to take Charles seriously.
"Will you put in a good word for me, then, Charlie?" he asked.
"Sure I will. I don't forget that you did me a bully favor one time when I was trying some fancy stunts backward on my skates, and tumbled through a hole in the ice. Say, I'll watch for a chance to speak to Mr. Gibbs the first time he calls me in to talk over business matters. If he's in a pleasant frame of mind he may tell me to get help, and I'll speak of you. But see here, old fellow, you mustn't expect to have the salary I receive in the beginning. I don't suppose they'd think of paying more than ten dollars to start with."
"A week?" asked Dick, smiling in spite of himself.
"To be sure. You didn't think I meant a month, did you. But I'm really too busy to spare any more time just now, Dick. You leave it to me and I'll try and do all I can to get you in. Don't be impatient. These things sometimes take time to work up, you know. A man in our line of business has to learn to be cautious, and not make mistakes. So-long, Dick," and the bank messenger flew up the steps of the stone building, his countenance changing as he stepped in through the door, for he saw the cashier looking at him with a frown.
That interview with Dick, entered into from purely selfish motives, might yet cost Charles dear.
As for Dick, he turned away with the smile still upon his face, showing that he had not been deceived to any great extent by the argument of his boy friend.
As Dick had now reached the end of his string, so far as applications for work went, for that day at least, he started for home.
Mrs. Morrison met him at the door, and her eyes searched anxiously to discover the true feeling that might lie back of Dick's cheery smile; he was so prone to put on a brave face, no matter what the difficulty, that she found it hard to tell just when things were going wrong with him.
"Nothing doing to-day, mother. Better luck to-morrow, perhaps. I've got a few irons heating in the fire, and one of them may get hot at any time. But just as soon as I can get into my old regimentals I'm going to dig some bait, and then me to the fishing bank. Wish me luck! At any rate I can get probably enough bass for our supper, and if things turn out well I may have some to sell."
He was off in a hurry, for time was passing and the best hours for fishing had really gone by; to-morrow he would be up at daylight, and while other boys might be yawning at being called to breakfast Dick would be found hovering over his favorite hole, tempting the finny tribe with the fattest of worms and grubs.
When he came in a short time later from getting his bait Mrs. Morrison had some lunch prepared, knowing that he had to go quite a little distance up the river to do his fishing, and might not want to tramp all the way home at noon.
"I would have done that myself; but you are the dearest little mother on earth. Look for me about supper time. I wouldn't stay so late, but you know the fish sometimes take to biting again just near sundown; and a fellow hates to give up when they act as if they were hungry. If I have too heavy a load I might make some arrangement with old Ben Carberry to loan me his rig; so don't be surprised if you see it backing up to the door," and with a laugh he ran off.
As the antiquated horse and dilapidated vehicle owned by old Ben had been the joke of the town for many a year his allusion was understood by Mrs. Morrison; so that she found herself also laughing as she in imagination saw the astonishment of the neighbors should such a thing occur, which, of course, was about as likely as a gold mine being discovered in their back garden.
Whistling as he went, Dick proceeded along the road.
Boy-like he was always on the watch for a chance to get a ride, and being overtaken by a farmer's wagon on the way home from early market he asked permission to climb in behind.
"Get up here along with me, Dick," replied the old gray-whiskered countryman, making room on the seat, for he happened to know the lad, perhaps because Mr. Morrison had plied his trade as carpenter around the entire section years ago.
Of course Dick gladly took advantage of the opportunity, and the farmer soon engaged him in conversation, asking about his mother, and telling several things in connection with his father that the boy had never heard before.
They were of a character to make him proud, for no one ever had anything but good words to say of the honest and thrifty carpenter, whose work always bore the most rigid scrutiny, and could be depended on.
"Where are ye goin' fishin', son?" finally asked the old man, possibly thinking of days long since gone by when he too used to take advantage of every chance to slip away from the heavy work of the farm, and, with pole over his shoulder seek the quiet retreats along that same river to coax the timid bass from the depths.
"I've got a hole just around the eddy below the big shelf of rocks. You see it's so far away the boys in town never get up there, and I generally have great luck. Then I know of half a dozen other spots nearly as good. I'm going to try and get some fish to sell to-day. You see, Mr. Prentice, I've got to bring in some money to help out at home until I get a position in some store," replied Dick.
"I'd like to have you work for me, boy, only if you came you'd have to be there all the time. Our chores must be did before daylight. Sometimes we get up at one or two in the mornin' so as to get an early start in to market. I calculate that you wouldn't wanter leave your mam alone all the time. Does ye credit, Dick. I remember Tom's wife right well, and she was allers a right good housekeeper. Ye can't do too much for her, son. But about that ere fishin' hole, dye know I believe 'twas the same I used to hook 'em out of thirty-odd year ago. Is it the ripple just back o' Banker Gibbs' place?"
"Why, yes, that's it. And you used to catch bass there that far back? I'd just like to see all the fish that have come out of there then, in all these years. I reckon they'd stack up pretty high, and bring a good price peddled around at the doors of Riverview folks. But here's where I must get down. I take a short-cut through the meadow and the woods right to the hole."
"Same short-cut, same hole, same kind of boy, allers ready to go fishin'. Good luck, Dick. I calculate you'll come out all right. Any boy of Tom Morrison couldn't help hittin' the mark in time," called out the genial old farmer, waving his whip cheerily after the active lad.
"Thank you for the lift, Mr. Prentice. If I can't make a go of it any other way I may look up that job you spoke about," Dick called out; and then turning hurriedly climbed a fence that brought him to the meadow.
DICK MAKES A GALLANT RESCUE
The fish did not seem in any great humor for taking hold that morning, although the weather conditions were just perfect for the sport, from the view of the boy who had his several poles in favorite places along the bank.
When he first threw in he had a bite before he could get his second hook baited, and the prize was a good pound fish, a beauty that made him exclaim with delight, and consider it a good omen.
But after that the nibbles were few and far between.
The summer sun mounted high in the heavens, and snowy clouds floated across the blue expanse; tired of sitting and watching his various bobs Dick finally settled back with his head on a bunch of grass and watched the beautiful picture above, his thoughts taking flight, as frequently happens with a boy who possesses an imagination.
Perhaps he dreamed day dreams as he watched the fleecy clouds sailing past, each an argosy of boyish hopes; perhaps he saw in imagination a delightful future when he and his mother would be placed beyond anxieties, and surrounded by all that could go to make up happiness in this material world.
Now and then he would arouse himself and examine his lines to see whether the bait were properly adjusted so as to present a tempting display to the bass; and occasionally he would pull in a capture, though they seemed to run in small comparison with the first prize.
Unless business picked up during the afternoon he rather guessed he would have to be satisfied with only a mess for the morrow's dinner.
"I'll get after the rascals bright and early to-morrow morning. No use talking, just after daylight at this time of year is the time to haul in these fellows. But I'm going to stick it out if it takes all day."
So saying he began to look around to discover if there was any other kind of bait he could offer the big fellows he knew were loitering around deep down in that dark water.
He had brought along a piece of mosquito netting to use as a little seine, by means of which he could possibly pick up a few minnows in a certain shallow they liked to frequent.
This he had done on the preceding season, and the change of diet had tempted the bass to take hold with gratifying results.
So he got the net out and was soon endeavoring to trap a few small fry.
He had made a miniature pond a foot or two in width along the side of the river, and into this he meant to drop any bait secured, to keep them alive until wanted.
But even the minnows had almost entirely forsaken that shallow at this time of day, for after working industriously a whole hour he had only succeeded in trapping three.
One of these he used at once, but it brought no success, for the hour was now near noon.
Dick munched at his lunch and watched his floats pensively as the time crept on.
Up to three o'clock he had had only one more bite, but he managed to land the late diner, which proved to be at least the equal of his first capture.
Then came another long wait.
About four he concluded to try another minnow, hoping that the bass were arousing from their mid-day nap and would feel like partaking of a bite.
The river was very pretty just here, and the current rather slow, for the banks had widened; only for this deep hole the stream was shallow, and since the rains had been few and far between of late Dick fancied he could almost wade across to the opposite shore should the occasion arise.
Strange to say the idea of taking a swim had not occurred to him, as it certainly must have done had there been another boy along; he was too much engrossed in his fishing, and the laying out of plans for the future to think of these material joys so dear to the heart of the ordinary boy.
Just as he had fastened the minnow to his hook, and gently floated this out to the most promising place in the pool he thought he heard voices somewhere close by.
When he listened again he learned that it was a girl's voice he heard.
And strange to say it seemed to come from up the river a little, just around the bend; indeed, as he listened he certainly heard the sound of oars working in the rowlocks, and again a merry voice called out.
Then Dick nodded his head and smiled.
"I know now. It's Bessie Gibbs in her boat. I remember that last year I saw her out rowing once when I was going home. She may come down this way. I wonder who is with her. Seems as if I can't catch any other voice, and yet she is laughing and talking as if somebody was along. I'll soon know, for she seems to be just around the bend, and coming down-stream."
It was curious to see the boy look down at his rather patched garments just then when there was a possibility of a girl coming on the scene.
"Wonder if Bessie would know me with my old regimentals on? I'm rigged out for fishing, and I can't afford to wear the only decent suit I own for this sort of thing. Perhaps she won't want to know me. All right, who cares? But she never seemed that sort of girl at school. I always thought Bessie the prettiest one in the whole bunch. Great Caesar! what's that mean?" he cried, for a shrill scream suddenly smote his ears.
He sprang to his feet and immediately started to run along the bank, heading up the stream, for the point of land with its clump of trees cut off his view.
The screams still continued, accompanied by a splashing of water that alarmed Dick more than ever, for he was now sure that Bessie Gibbs must have fallen overboard, and was in danger of drowning.
He burst through the bushes and stood on the shore.
His first sight of the river at this point relieved him greatly, for he discovered the rowboat half way across, with a little maid in it frantically trying to recover one of her oars that had slipped away in the excitement of the moment.
There was also something struggling furiously in the water at a little distance, and which Dick could not make out at first; but when he shouted at the top of his voice and started to wade out toward the spot the girl turned toward him and wildly beckoned, at the same time crying out:
"Oh! save him, save my poor Benjy—he will drown! Dick! please get him for me!"
It was not a human being in peril at all, only Bessie's pet Angora cat, a fuzzy little creature Dick remembered seeing on the seat of the Gibbs carriage one day when he met Bessie on the road, and she nodded to him, just as friendly as ever.
He pushed resolutely out to where the wretched little beast, having fallen overboard through a miscalculation, was being carried down-stream by the current and in sore peril of meeting death by drowning, since cats are but poor swimmers at best.
Dick was not a cruel boy by nature, and while he might have hesitated about placing his own life in jeopardy in order to save a cat, still, this one was the especial pet of a girl who had been his classmate in school for several years.
The water grew deeper, and soon he had to swim, which, considering the fact that he was burdened with his clothes was not the easiest thing in the world to do.
But Dick had always been noted for his ability to look out for himself in the water, and he was not long in reaching the struggling creature.
He received one scratch from its claw as the frightened cat tried to secure a lodging on his head, but by a little cautious work Dick finally managed to catch the little terror by the nape of the neck, and finding lodgment against a sunken boulder for his feet he waited until the boat containing the little miss floated down to him, when he tossed poor Benjy over the gunwale, a ridiculous looking object to be sure, but at least safe and sound.
"Oh! Dick, climb in; you may be drowned yourself!" cried Bessie, making as if to seize hold of the lad who had so promptly gone to the rescue of her pet.
At that Dick laughed aloud.
"I'm too much of a waterdog for that, Bessie. But while I'm in I might as well do the whole thing. Now watch me go after that floating oar of yours," and so saying he started to move down-stream again.
This time he drew the boat after him, and just opposite his fishing hole he managed to overtake the runaway oar, now held against a jutting rock, and speedily placed it in the possession of the girl.
"Won't you go home with me to get dried out, Dick?" asked Bessie, looking at him in sincere admiration as he stood up in the water, and pulled the boat toward the shore.
"What, me? Why, this is a picnic for a boy at this time of year. I'm going to wring the worst of it out, and then row your boat back up the river for you. Why, long before I go home my luxurious fishing suit will be dried on me. Saves pressing, you know, Bessie. And by cutting a few sticks like clothes-pins I can snap them on along the front and get a beautiful crease!"
She laughed at his merry conceit, for Dick had always been a favorite of hers among the school companions of other days.
He was as good as his word, and persisted in rowing the boat back to the landing from which she had started out; while Bessie sat there fondling her Angora kitten, and rubbing its bedraggled hairy form with her little handkerchief.
Dick went back to his fishing, amused at his little adventure, and never once suspecting what a tremendous influence such a small thing was destined to have on his whole future.
To his delight he found another captive tugging furiously at the line on which he had placed his minnow, and it proved to be by far the largest prize of the day, very little short of two pounds.
"To-morrow I will try and get a lot of live bait. I believe they fancy them at this season of the year. What, that last one hardly sank down before it was taken and this seems to be a jim-dandy of a boy too by the way he pulls. I hope I don't lose him now," and he began to play the captive as cautiously as his experience in landing tricky bass had taught him how.
After successfully tiring the fish out he managed to get him on the string with the others, but he had no more minnows, and as the fastidious bass would not look at common earth worms after that Dick was compelled to give up for the day, take his fair-sized string of fish and poles, and start trudging homeward.
THE COMING OF A LETTER
Perhaps Dick did not walk quite as briskly as usual while trudging homeward, for he was certainly pretty well tired out, and what with the poles and fish he had quite a burden to carry.
But he felt pleased to think that the day had been so filled with little happenings, from his unsuccessful search for work, the ride with the friendly farmer who had offered him a place, the fishing-hole industry, and last, but not far from least, the rescue of Benjy and succeeding gratitude of pretty Bessie Gibbs.
He was glad it had been her cat; he would sooner do a favor for Bessie than any girl he knew; for while her father was probably the richest man in Riverview she had never put on any airs like the Harkness girls, who passed him in the street and looked right through him without a smile.
About half way home he met a carriage coming out from town.
It contained several people, and Dick quickly recognized it as the Gibbs vehicle—yes, and that Bessie was one of those who made up the party.
He stepped out of the road to let it pass; and had it been possible Dick would have tried to conceal himself behind a tree; but he feared Bessie must have already seen him, and would laugh at his desire to avoid being thanked for his afternoon's rescue.
Just as he feared, the carriage came to a stop before reaching him, and he saw Bessie leaning forward, beckoning wildly to him.
"Dick, please come here. Mamma wants to thank you for saving our poor little Benjy. He has dried off beautifully, and looks whiter than ever. I don't believe his swim hurt him a little bit. I hope you didn't catch cold, Dick," was what he heard her saying.
There was nothing for it then but to advance to the side of the carriage.
Mrs. Gibbs was a refined lady, and perhaps a little given to believing that there are few things in this world that cannot be settled by a money consideration.
She felt grateful to the boy for saving the pet of her daughter; she knew who he was and that his father had been a carpenter, an honest man and with a reputation for respectability around Riverview, but she could not imagine for a moment that she would hurt the feelings of a boy by offering him a reward for wading into the river and taking a drowning cat out.
"Yes, I hope you will not suffer from your immersion, Richard. It was very kind, indeed, of you to go to such trouble for the sake of a poor cat. And, perhaps, something might have happened to Bessie too, she is so excitable when anything occurs. I hope you will let me reward you in some way. Won't you accept this, please? You must have quite ruined your clothes by your brave act, and perhaps this will purchase another suit," said the lady, holding out what Dick saw was a ten dollar bill.
He felt the blood fly to his face.
Then he looked down at his old garments, which he only donned for garden work or fishing, and afterwards glanced up at Bessie, to laugh aloud.
"I guess I'm like Benjy, Mrs. Gibbs, and that the ducking did my clothes more good than harm. These are my fishing duds, ma'm. And if you please I'd rather not take any reward for pulling the poor little kitten in out of the wet. It was only sport for me, and I was glad to be there to save him for Bessie. Besides, I know my mother would not like it if I took pay for doing so small a thing," he said.
"What did I tell you, mamma?" exclaimed Bessie, impulsively, as though she had begged her mother not to offer the boy money.
The lady looked at Dick seriously for a minute, as if unable to exactly understand the motives that influenced him to act as he did.
Then she smiled and remarked:
"Just as you say, Richard. I suppose you know best; but even though you will not let us recompense you in any manner, we still feel that we are under obligations to you for what you did. You seem to have had good success in fishing?" noticing the fine string he was holding at his side.
"It has not been a good day. I hope to do better to-morrow, for I have an idea of going into the business for a while, and supplying families with fresh caught fish, while waiting to secure a position. It is necessary that I do something to help out at home, since my mother has all she owns invested where it happens to be tied up just at present, ma'm."
Had he dared, Dick would have liked to have mentioned the fact that it was the secret hope of his heart some day to find an humble opening in the bank of which the lady's husband was the head; but he lacked the boldness to speak.
"I am sure the spirit you show is commendable enough, my boy. Your mother has need of feeling proud of so affectionate a son. I have often wished we had a boy to follow in the footsteps of Archibald; but Heaven saw fit to take three from us when they were babies. Perhaps in some way we can show you that we do appreciate what you did for Bessie this afternoon, Richard," the lady remarked.
"She thanked me, Mrs. Gibbs; that was enough for me," he replied, and somehow Bessie blushed as she met his laughing eyes.
Then the carriage drove on, and Dick stood there looking after it with a queer feeling in his heart; he was wondering what the uncertain future had in store for him, and if his dear little mother would ever see the day when she could ride in her own vehicle.
He heaved a long sigh, and once more plodded along the road; but somehow he did not seem quite so tired as before meeting the carriage that contained Bessie Gibbs and her mother.
He found supper ready, and the usual warm welcome from his waiting mother.
And over the meal he described in detail all that had happened during that rather eventful day.
She hung upon his every word, for like most fond mothers she believed there could be no boy like her own; and when Dick told in as dramatic a manner as possible how he had chased across the point upon hearing those shrill screams, she waited in real suspense until he described what really met his view upon bursting forth, and the change from impending tragedy to a farce was so great that Mrs. Morrison sank back in her chair, smiling, but looking a little pale.
"I remember Bessie very well. Last winter she sang in the church choir with a number of your school companions; and I think I recollect that you saw her home one night when some accident happened to the horse, and no vehicle came after her," she mused, looking roguishly at Dick, who blushed as he turned the subject.
Before going to bed Dick spent half an hour digging more bait, and then even enlarged the little homely seine made of mosquito netting; if the fish must be tempted with minnows it was up to him to give them what they wanted, and in order to make a decent haul of live bait he knew that a larger net was necessary.
He was up before dawn, and gone before his mother came downstairs to get breakfast; but this did not surprise the good woman, for she knew Dick's ways, and that if his heart was set on anything he never let the grass grow under his feet.
So shortly after sunrise the boy was settled at his old stamping ground alongside the favorite hole, and had his lines out ready for an early prize; while he worked his little seine and scooped up many fine minnows to be transplanted into the shallow pond made ready for their occupancy.
And his prediction seemed in a fair way of being fulfilled, for he was kept busy baiting his lines, so fast and furious became the rush on the part of the finny denizens of the pool behind the big eddy for a breakfast.
He seemed to have come at just the right time, and offered them the very bait they were eager for.
His string increased at a surprising rate, and after the sun had been up a couple of hours Dick saw that he had a mighty fine lot of beauties to dispose of.
Later on as the bites grew fewer, and he found he had some time on his hands, he proceeded to dress his fish, and cover them with cool leaves in the basket he had brought along for this very purpose.
Before noon he started back to town, resolved to dispose of his catch.
He could not expect to do as well as this every day, but there was certainly twenty pounds of fine fresh fish in his basket, and he believed he could readily sell them for a couple of dollars.
He had already picked out certain houses where he meant to offer his wares; and it can be readily guessed that the Gibbs mansion was not one of the number, although it stood not far away from his starting point; just why this should be so the reader must be left to imagine—perhaps it was because he was afraid he would be thanked again by Mrs. Gibbs for saving the life of the pet Angora; perhaps he somehow did not fancy appearing again in his old clothes before Bessie; perhaps,—but surely every boy must understand how Dick felt about it.
Just as he expected, he met with flattering success in disposing of the contents of his basket; for while Riverview was situated on a stream that seemed bountifully supplied with fish few persons made it a business to secure enough of them to offer any for sale; and what could be found on the stands in the markets had come from Boston, and were packed in ice, so that their delicate flavor had been much impaired.
At about three, then Dick headed toward home, quite satisfied with his day's work.
He jingled a handful of change in his pocket with the cheerful air of one who has earned every penny of it—just two dollars and twenty cents, surely enough to pay him for his early rising.
His mother was out when he got home, probably having just stepped over to see a sick neighbor; and Dick, entering the house, dropped into a chair to rest a little before going out to dig more worms for the morning.
It was while he was stretching himself out that his eyes chanced to fall upon a letter on the table, and to his surprise it was addressed to "Richard Morrison."
He snatched it up filled with wonder, for he could hardly remember ever having received a letter before, though once a former boy friend had written him from Florida where his father had gone for his health.
And his eyes distended still more when he saw up in the corner of the envelope the printed words: "First National Bank of Riverview."
With trembling fingers Dick tore the envelope open.
Sitting there in the easy chair Dick read the few lines that composed the letter which his mother must have taken from the rural delivery man at the door. It was in typewriting too, and signed with the name of Harvey Gibbs.
"RICHARD MORRISON: I understand that you are seeking a position. Will you call upon me Friday morning about half-past ten."
That was all; but it could not have given that boy more of an electric shock had it been a communication of a thousand words.
What did it mean?
He read it again and again, and gradually the only explanation that could be attached to so clear a request came into his mind—why, they meant to offer him a position in the bank—his dream seemed in a fair way of being realized.