STARRY FLAG SERIES
THE STARRY FLAG SERIES,
BY OLIVER OPTIC.
I. THE STARRY FLAG; OR, THE YOUNG FISHERMAN OF CAPE ANN.
II. FREAKS OF FORTUNE; OR, HALF ROUND THE WORLD.
III. BREAKING AWAY; OR, THE FORTUNES OF A STUDENT.
IV. SEEK AND FIND; OR, THE ADVENTURES OF A SMART BOY.
V. MAKE OR BREAK; OR, THE RICH MAN'S DAUGHTER.
VI. DOWN THE RIVER; OR, BUCK BRADFORD AND HIS TYRANTS.
MAKE OR BREAK;
THE RICH MAN'S DAUGHTER.
AUTHOR OF "YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD," "THE ARMY AND NAVY STORIES," "THE WOODVILLE STORIES," "THE BOAT-CLUB STORIES," "THE RIVERDALE STORIES," ETC.
BOSTON LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by WILLIAM T. ADAMS, In the Clerks Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
COPYRIGHT, 1896, BY WILLIAM T. ADAMS. All rights reserved.
MAKE OR BREAK.
MY YOUNG FRIEND
KATE V. AUSTIN
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
"MAKE OR BREAK," is the fifth of the serial stories published in "OUR BOYS AND GIRLS"—a magazine which has become so much the pet of the author, that he never sits down to write a story for it without being impressed by a very peculiar responsibility. Twenty thousand youthful faces seem to surround him, crying out for something that will excite their minds, and thrill their very souls, while a calmer, holier voice, speaking in the tones of divine command, breathes gently forth, "Feed my lambs."
The lambs will not eat dry husks; they loathe the tasteless morsel which well-meaning sectarians offer them, and hunger for that which will warm their hearts and stir their blood. The heart may be warmed, and the blood may be stirred, without corrupting the moral nature. The writer has endeavored to meet this demand in this way, and he is quite sure that the patient, striving, toiling Leo, and the gentle, self-sacrificing, and devoted Maggie, do nothing in the story which will defile the mind or the heart of the young people. The Bible teaches what they sought to practise. He is satisfied that none of his readers will like Mr. Fitzherbert Wittleworth well enough to make him their model.
The author is willing the story should pass for what it is worth; and there is no danger that it will be over or undervalued, for the young people are even more critical than their elders. But the favor already bestowed upon it has added to the weight of the writer's obligation to the juvenile reading public; and in giving them the story in its present permanent form, he trusts that it will continue to be not only a source of pleasure, but a stimulus to higher aims, and a more resolute striving for what is worth having both in the moral and material world.
WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
HARRISON SQUARE, MASS., July 28, 1868.
MR. WITTLEWORTH GETS SHAVED 11
BOY WANTED 22
MR. CHECKYNSHAW IS VIOLENT 34
MR. CHECKYNSHAW RUSHES 46
LEO MAGGIMORE 57
LEO'S WORKSHOP 69
MON PERE 81
MAKE OR BREAK 94
MR. CHECKYNSHAW AND FAMILY 105
THE WITTLEWORTH FAMILY 117
THE MOUSE BUSINESS 129
LEO'S WONDERFUL PERFORMERS 141
WITTLEWORTH VS. CHECKYNSHAW 153
MR. CHECKYNSHAW IS LIBERAL 166
A SUCCESS IN THE MOUSE BUSINESS 179
THE LETTER FROM MARGUERITE 192
THE LETTER FROM FRANCE 204
THE QUITCLAIM DEED 217
FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD 229
AN AVALANCHE OF GOOD FORTUNE 241
MR. WITTLEWORTH'S WRONGS 254
THE TWO MARGUERITES 266
THE GOLD LOCKET 279
ME AND CHOATE 291
THE ELEGANT YOUNG LADY 303
THE RICH MAN'S DAUGHTER 315
MAKE OR BREAK;
THE RICH MAN'S DAUGHTER.
MR. WITTLEWORTH GETS SHAVED.
"Next gentleman!" said Andre Maggimore, one of the journeyman barbers in the extensive shaving saloon of Cutts & Stropmore, which was situated near the Plutonian temples of State Street, in the city of Boston.
"Next gentleman!" repeated Andre, in tones as soft and feminine as those of a woman, when no one responded to his summons.
"My turn?" asked a spare young man of sixteen, throwing down the Post, with a languid air, and rising to his feet.
"Yes, sir," replied Andre, politely; and if the speaker had been out of sight, one would have supposed it was a lady who spoke. "Have your hair cut?"
The barber seemed to be startled by the announcement, though there was not the faintest smile on his face to discourage the candidate for tonsorial honors. The young man looked important, threw his head back, pursed up his lips, and felt of his chin, on which there was not the slightest suspicion of a beard visible to the naked eye. Mr. Fitzherbert Wittleworth would not have been willing to acknowledge that he had not been shaved for three weeks; but no one could have discovered the fact without the aid of a powerful microscope.
Mr. Wittleworth spread out his attenuated frame in the barber's chair, and dropped his head back upon the rest. Andre looked as grave and serious as though he had been called to operate upon the face of one of the venerable and dignified bank presidents who frequented the shop. He was a journeyman barber, and it was his business to shave any one who sat down in his chair, whether the applicant had a beard or not. If Andre's voice was soft and musical, his resemblance to the gentler sex did not end there, for his hand was as silky and delicate, and his touch as velvety, as though he had been bred in a boudoir.
He adjusted the napkin to the neck of the juvenile customer with the nicest care, and then, from the force of habit, passed his downy hand over the face upon which he was to operate, as if to determine whether it was a hard or a tender skin. Several of the customers smiled and coughed, and even the half-dozen journeymen were not unmoved by the spectacle.
"What are you going to do, Fitz?" asked the occupant of the adjoining chair, who had just straightened himself up to be "brushed off."
"I'm going to have a shave," answered Mr. Wittleworth, as confidently as though the proceedings were entirely regular.
"To have my beard taken off, of course. What do you shave for?"
"Put on the cream, and let the cat lick it off."
"That's a venerable joke. I dare say the barber did not gap his razor when he shaved you. I always feel better after I have been shaved," added Mr. Wittleworth, as Andre laid a brush full of lather upon his smooth chin.
Those in the shop chuckled, and some of them were ill-mannered enough to laugh aloud, at the conceit of the young man who thus announced to the world that his beard had grown. Even the proprietors of the extensive shaving saloon looked uncommonly good-natured, though it was not prudent for them to rebuke the ambition of the prospective customer.
Andre lathered the face of the juvenile with as much care as though it had been that of the parsimonious broker at the corner, who shaved only when his beard was an eighth of an inch in length. Not satisfied with this preparatory step, he resorted to the process used for particularly hard beards, of rubbing the lather in with a towel wet in hot water; but Andre did not smile, or by word or deed indicate that all he was doing was not absolutely necessary in order to give his customer a clean and an easy shave. Then he stropped his razor with zealous enthusiasm, making the shop ring with the melody of the thin steel, as he whipped it back and forth on the long strip of soft leather, one end of which was nailed to the case, and the other end held in his hand. The music was doubtless sweet to the listening ears of Mr. Wittleworth, if not as the prelude of an easy shave, at least as an assurance that all the customary forms had been scrupulously complied with in his individual case.
Slapping the broad-bladed razor on his soft hand, the barber approached the young man in the chair. With a graceful movement he brought the instrument to bear gently on the face.
"Does it pull, Fitz?" asked the tormentor in the next chair.
"Of course not; Andre always gives a man an easy shave," replied Mr. Wittleworth.
"Certainly; but some people have tough beards and tender faces."
"If your beard is as soft as your head, it won't hurt you to shave with a handsaw," retorted Mr. Wittleworth.
The laugh was at the expense of the tormentor, and he retreated from the shop in the "guffaw," and Fitz was permitted to finish his shave in peace—in peace, at least, so far as this particular tormentor was concerned, for a more formidable one assailed him before his departure. Andre went over his face with the nicest care; then lathered it again, and proceeded to give it the finishing touches. He was faithful to the end, and gave the juvenile patron the benefit of the entire length and breadth of his art, omitting nothing that could add dignity or perfection to the operation. It was quite certain that, if there was anything like an imperceptible down on his face at the commencement of the process, there was nothing left of it at the end.
Mr. Wittleworth's hair was oiled, moistened with diluted Cologne water, combed, brushed, parted, and tossed in wavy flakes over his head, and was as fragrant, glossy, and unctuous as the skill of Andre could make it.
"One feels more like a Christian after a clean shave," said Mr. Wittleworth, as he rose from the chair, and passed his hand approvingly over his polished chin. "Barbers, good barbers, do a missionary work in the world."
"What are you doing here, Fitz?" demanded a stern-looking gentleman, who had just entered the shop, and stepped up behind the juvenile customer.
"I came in to get shaved," replied Mr. Wittleworth, abashed by the harsh tones.
"Shaved!" exclaimed Mr. Checkynshaw, the stern-looking gentleman, well known as the senior partner of the great banking house of Checkynshaw, Hart, & Co. "Shaved!"
"Yes, sir; I came here to be shaved, and I have been shaved," replied the young man, trying to assume an air of bravado, though he was actually trembling in his boots before the lofty and dignified personage who confronted and confounded him.
"Is this the way you waste your time and your money? I sent you to the post-office, and you have been gone over half an hour."
"I had to wait for my turn," pleaded Mr. Wittleworth.
"When I send you to the post-office, you will not loiter away your time in a barber's shop, you conceited puppy. I'll discharge you!"
"Discharge me!" exclaimed Mr. Wittleworth, stung by the epithet of the banker. "I think not, sir."
The young gentleman placed his hat upon his head, canting it over on one side, so as to give him a saucy and jaunty appearance. Mr. Checkynshaw, whose clerk, or rather "boy," he was, had often scolded him, and even abused him, in the private office of the banking-house, but never before in a place so public as a barber's shop in 'Change Street, and in 'change hours. He felt outraged by the assault; for Mr. Wittleworth, as his employer had rather indelicately hinted, had a high opinion of himself. He straightened himself up, and looked impudent—a phase in his conduct which the banker had never before observed, and he stood aghast at this indication of incipient rebellion.
"You think not, you puppy!" exclaimed the banker, stamping his feet with rage.
"I think not! It wouldn't be a prudent step for you to take," answered Mr. Wittleworth, stung again by the insulting appellations heaped upon him. "I know rather too much about your affairs to be cast out so thoughtlessly."
"I will discharge you this very day!" replied the banker, his teeth set firmly together.
"I think you will find that the affairs of Messrs. Checkynshaw, Hart, & Co. will not go on so smoothly without me as they do with me," added Mr. Wittleworth, as he canted his hat over a little more on one side, and pulled up his shirt collar.
"Without you!" gasped the banker, confounded by the assumption of his employee.
"Perhaps you will find it so, after you have done your worst."
"Conceited puppy! I took you into my office out of charity! Go to your place. Charity can do no more for you."
"If you can afford to discharge me, I can afford to be discharged," replied Mr. Wittleworth, as he stroked his chin, and walked out of the shop.
"The young vagabond!" muttered Mr. Checkynshaw. "I took him to keep his mother from starving. Andre," he added, imperiously.
The barber with the effeminate voice and the silky hands turned from the customer he was shaving, and bowed politely to the magnate of the house of Checkynshaw, Hart, & Co.
"Andre, my daughter Elinora goes to a juvenile party this evening, and wishes you to dress her hair at four o'clock."
"Yes, sir; with Mr. Cutts's permission, I will attend her at that hour."
Mr. Checkynshaw looked as though Mr. Cutts's permission was not at all necessary when he desired anything; but Mr. Cutts did not venture to interpose any obstacle to the wish of a person so influential as the banker. Mr. Checkynshaw turned to leave, went as far as the door, and then returned.
"Andre," he continued, "you spoke to me of a boy of yours."
"My adopted son, sir," replied the barber.
"I don't care whether he is your son, or your adopted son. What sort of a boy is he?"
"He is a very good boy, sir," answered Andre.
"Can he read and write?"
"Very well indeed, sir. The master of his school says he will take the medal at the close of the year."
"I shall discharge that puppy, and I want a good boy in his place. Send him to me at half past two this afternoon."
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Checkynshaw. Perhaps I spoke too soon, sir; but I did not want a place for him till next vacation."
"Send him up, and I will talk with him," said the banker, imperatively and patronizingly, as he hurried out of the shop.
He was met at the door by a girl of fifteen, who modestly stepped out of the way to let the magnate pass. She was dressed very plainly, but very neatly, and in her hand she carried a tin pail. The loud talk of the barber's shop politicians and the coarse jests of rude men ceased as she walked behind the long line of chairs to that where Andre was at work. She was rather tall for her age; her face was pretty, and her form delicately moulded. She was all gentleness and grace, and rude men were awed by her presence.
Andre smiled as sweetly as a woman when he saw her, and his eye followed her as she went to the stove, and placed the pail by its side.
"Maggie, send Leo to me as soon as you go home," said he, in the softest of his soft tones, as she left the shop.
From the tin kettle, which Maggie had placed by the stove, there arose an odor of fried sausages—a savory mess to a hungry man, possessed of a reasonable amount of confidence in the integrity and conscientiousness of sausage-makers in general. Andre made himself as useful as possible to his employers, and they could not well spare him in the middle of the day to go home to his dinner, for during 'change hours the shop was full of customers. If there was a lull any time before three o'clock, he ate the contents of the tin pail; if not, he dined at a fashionable hour.
Andre could not well be spared, because there were certain dignified men, presidents of banks and insurance companies, venerable personages with a hold upon the last generation, who came from their homes in the middle of the day to read the newspapers at the "China," or the "Fireman;" staid old merchants, who had retired from active life, and went to the counting-room only to look after the junior partners—men who always shaved down town, and would not let any barber but Andre touch their faces. His hand was so soft and silky, his touch so tender and delicate, and his razors were so keen and skilfully handled, that he was a favorite in the shop.
Years before, Andre had set up a shop for himself; but he had no talent for business, and the experiment was a failure. He was too effeminate to control his journeymen, and his shop was not well ordered. All his regular customers insisted on being shaved by Andre; and, while he paid the wages of two men, he did all the work himself. The rent and other expenses overwhelmed him; but he had the good sense to sell out before he became involved in debt.
There he was, in the shop of Cutts & Stropmore, and there he was likely to be—a journeyman barber to the end of his mortal pilgrimage. The highest wages were paid him; but Andre had no ambition to gratify, and when one week's wages were due, every cent of the earnings of the preceding one was invariably used up. If there was a ten-cent piece left in his pocket on Saturday morning, he took care to spend it for something to gratify Maggie or Leo before he went to the shop. For this boy and girl—though they were not his own children, or even of any blood relation to him—he lived and labored as lovingly and patiently as though God had blessed him in the paternal tie.
Half an hour after Maggie left the shop there was a brief lull in the business, and Andre seized his kettle, and bore it to a kind of closet, where hair oils, hair washes, and the "Celebrated Capillary Compound" were concocted. With a sausage in one hand and a penny roll in the other, he ate as a hungry man eats when the time is short. Andre's appetite was good, and thus pleasantly was he employed when Leo, the barber's adopted son, entered the laboratory of odoriferous compounds.
"Maggie says you want to see me," said Leo.
The boy was dressed as neatly as the barber himself, but in other respects he was totally unlike him. He had a sharp, bright eye, and his voice was heavy, and rather guttural, being in the process of changing, for he was fifteen years old. On the books of the grammar school, where he was a candidate for the highest honors of the institution, his name was recorded as Leopold Maggimore. If Leo was his pet name, it was not because he bore any resemblance to the lion, though he was a bold fellow, with no little dignity in his expression.
"I sent for you, Leo," replied Andre, when he had waited long enough after the entrance of the boy to enable us to describe the youth, and himself to dispose of the overplus of fried sausage in his mouth, so that he could utter the words; "Mr. Checkynshaw spoke to me about you. He wishes to see you at half past two o'clock."
"Mr. Checkynshaw!" exclaimed Leo, wondering what the head of the well-known banking house could want with an individual so insignificant as himself.
"He wants a boy."
"Does he want me?"
"I suppose he does."
"But, father, I shall lose my medal if I leave school now," added Leo.
"You must not leave now; but you can see Mr. Checkynshaw, and explain the matter to him. He is a great man, and when you want a place, he may be able to help you."
"The cat may look at the king, and I will go and see him; but I don't see what good it will do. Fitz Wittleworth is there."
"He is to be discharged," quietly added Andre, as he deposited half a sausage in his mouth.
"Fitz discharged!" exclaimed Leo, opening his eyes.
"Yes; he has been, or will be to-day."
"But what will the firm of Checkynshaw, Hart, & Co. do without him? Fitz tells me that he carries on the concern himself."
"Fitz is conceited; and I think the concern will be able to get along without him."
"But he is some relation to Mr. Checkynshaw."
"I think not; the banker says he took him into his office to keep him from starving."
"Fitz says Mr. Checkynshaw's first wife was his mother's sister."
"That is not a very near relation, and the banker will not tolerate his impudence on that account. No matter about that; Mr. Checkynshaw wishes to see you at half past two. You can tell him about your medal, and tell him, very respectfully and politely, that you can't leave school. He may like the looks of you, and help you to a place when you do want one."
Andre did not think it would be possible for any one to see Leo without liking the looks of him; and he was quite sure that he would make a favorable impression upon even the cold, stern banker. A call-bell on the case of Mr. Cutts sounded, and Andre hastened back to the shop, having only half satisfied the cravings of his hunger. A customer was already seated in his chair, and he went to work upon him, with his thoughts still following Leo to the banker's private office. He had high hopes for that boy. Mr. Cutts had proposed to take him as an apprentice to the barber's business; but, while Andre had no ambition for himself, he had for Leo, and he would not think of such a thing as permitting him to follow his trade, which, however honorable and useful did not open to the youth the avenues of fame and fortune.
On this important subject Leo had some views of his own. He certainly did not wish to be a barber, and he was almost as much opposed to being a banker or a merchant. He wished to be a carpenter or a machinist. He was born to be a mechanic, and all his thoughts were in this direction, though he had not yet decided whether he preferred to work in wood or in iron. But his foster-father had higher aspirations for him, and Leo had not the heart to disappoint him, though he continued to hope that, before the time came for him to commence in earnest the business of life, he should be able to convince him that the path to fame and fortune lay in the mechanic arts as well as in commerce and finance. Leo walked out into State Street, and, by the clock on the old State House, saw that it was too early to call upon the banker.
Mr. Fitzherbert Wittleworth did not go to the banker's office when ordered to do so. He went to his mother's house, to tell her that Mr. Checkynshaw had threatened to discharge him. He had a long talk with her. She was a sensible woman, and reproved his self-conceit, and insisted that he should make peace with the powerful man by a humble apology.
"Mother, you may eat humble pie at the feet of Mr. Checkynshaw, if you like; I shall not," replied Fitz, as he was familiarly called, though the brief appellative always galled him, and the way to reach his heart was to call him Mr. Wittleworth.
"If you get turned off, what will become of us? Your father isn't good for anything, and what both of us can earn is hardly enough to keep us from starving," answered the poor woman, whose spirit had long before been broken by poverty, disappointment, and sorrow.
"I would rather starve than have the heel of that man on my neck. I have done everything I could for the concern. I have worked early and late, and kept everything up square in the private office; but there is no more gratitude in that man than there is in a truck horse. He don't even thank me for it."
"But he pays you wages; and that's enough," replied his more practical mother.
"That is not enough, especially when he pays me but five dollars a week. I am worth a thousand dollars a year, at least, to the concern. Checkynshaw will find that out after he has discharged me," added Mr. Wittleworth, pulling up his collar, as was his wont when his dignity was damaged.
"Go back to him; tell him you are sorry for what you said, and ask him to forgive you," persisted Mrs. Wittleworth. "This is no time for poor people to be proud. The times are so hard that I made only a dollar last week, and if you lose your place, we must go to the almshouse."
"What's the use of saying that, mother?" continued the son. "It seems to me you take pride in talking about our poverty."
"It's nothing but the truth," added Mrs. Wittleworth, wiping the tears from her pale, thin face, which was becoming paler and thinner every day, for she toiled far into the night, making shirts at eight cents apiece. "I have only fifty cents in money left to buy provisions for the rest of the week."
"Folks will trust you," said Fitz, impatiently.
"I don't want them to trust me, if I am not to have the means of paying them. It was wrong for you to pay six cents to be shaved; it's silly and ridiculous, to say nothing of leaving the office for half an hour. You did wrong, and you ought to acknowledge it."
"Mother, I'm tired of this kind of a life."
"So am I; but we cannot starve," replied the poor woman, bitterly. "It is harder for me than for you, for I was brought up in plenty and luxury, and never knew what it was to want for anything till your father spent all my property, and then became a burden upon me. You have been a good boy, Fitzherbert, and I hope you will not disappoint me now."
"I shall do everything I can for you, mother, of course; but it is hard to be ground down by that man, as I am."
The young gentleman said that man with an emphasis which meant something.
"I cannot help it," sighed the mother.
"Yes, you can. In my opinion,—and I think I understand the matter as well as any other man,—in my opinion, Mr. Checkynshaw owes you fifty thousand dollars, and is keeping you out of your just due. That's what galls me," added Fitz, rapping the table violently with his fist.
"It may be and it may not be. I don't know."
"I know! That man is not an honest man. I know something about his affairs, and if he presumes to discharge me, I shall devote some of my valuable time to the duty of ventilating them."
"Don't you do any such thing, Fitz."
"I will, mother! I will find out whether the money belongs to you or not," added the young man, decidedly. "I have my private opinion about the matter. I know enough about Checkynshaw to feel certain that he wouldn't let fifty thousand dollars slip through his fingers, if by any trickery he could hold on to it. If he has a daughter in France, fifteen years old, as she must be, wouldn't she write to him? Wouldn't he write to her? Wouldn't he go and see her? Wouldn't he send her money? She don't do it; he don't do it. I do all the post-office business for the firm, and no such letters go or come."
Mr. Wittleworth was very decided in his "private opinion;" but at last he so far yielded to the entreaties of his mother as to consent to return to the office, and if Mr. Checkynshaw wasn't savage, he would apologize. This he regarded as a great concession, very humiliating, and to be made only to please his mother.
MR. CHECKYNSHAW IS VIOLENT.
MR. Fitzherbert Wittleworth walked slowly and nervously from his home to the banking-house in State Street. The situation was just as far from pleasant as it could be. He did not wish to deprive the family of the necessaries of life, which were purchased with his meagre salary, on the one hand, and it was almost impossible to endure the tyranny of Mr. Checkynshaw on the other hand. To a young man with so high an opinion of himself as the banker's clerk entertained, the greatest privation to which he could be subjected was a want of appreciation of his personal character and valuable services.
The banker had an utter contempt for him personally, and regarded his salary as high at five dollars a week, which was indeed a high rate for a young man of sixteen. Mr. Checkynshaw sat in his private office, adjoining the banking-house, when Mr. Wittleworth presented himself. He scowled savagely as the young man entered.
"You have concluded to come back—have you?" said he.
"Yes, sir," replied Fitz.
"Well, sir, you have only come to be discharged; for I will no longer have a stupid and useless blockhead about. I was willing to tolerate you for your mother's sake; but I won't submit to your impudence."
Stupid and useless blockhead! It was no use to attempt to effect a reconciliation with a person who had, or professed to have, such an opinion of him. Not even the strait to which his family was reduced could justify him in submitting to such abuse.
"Mr. Checkynshaw, I don't allow any man to insult me," Fitz began. "I have treated you like a gentleman, and I demand as much in return."
"Insult you? Impudent puppy!" gasped Mr. Checkynshaw. "What are we coming to?"
"You insulted me in a public barber's shop. Not content with that, you call me a stupid and useless blockhead—me, sir."
"No more of this! Take your pay, and be gone! There's five dollars, a full week's salary for three days' service," added the banker, pushing a five-dollar bill across the desk towards Fitz.
The young man was not too proud to take it.
"Go! Don't stop here another minute," said the wrathy banker, glancing at the clock, which now indicated the time he had appointed for the coming of Leo Maggimore.
"I am not ready to go just yet. I have a demand to make upon you. You have defrauded my mother out of a fortune."
"That will do! Not another word," said Mr. Checkynshaw, turning red in the face.
"My mother will take steps to obtain her rights."
"Will you go?" demanded the banker.
"No, sir. I will not till I have said what I have to say. You shall either prove that your first daughter is alive, or you shall deliver to my mother the property."
Mr. Checkynshaw could not endure such speech as this from any man, much less from his discharged clerk. He rose from his chair, and rushed upon the slender youth with a fury worthy a more stalwart foe. Grasping him by the collar, he dragged him out of the private office, through the long entry, to the street, and then pitched him far out upon the sidewalk. As he passed through the entry, Leo Maggimore was going into the banking-office. Not knowing the way, he inquired of a person he met in the long hall.
Leo did not know the banker, and was not aware that the excited gentleman he had seen was he; and he did not recognize Fitz in the young man who was so violently hurried before him. He followed the direction given him, and reached the private office of the banker. Through an open window he saw the clerks and cashiers rushing to the door to witness the extraordinary scene that was transpiring in the street. Taking off his cap, he waited for the appearance of Mr. Checkynshaw, who, he supposed, had also gone to "see the fun." As he stood there, a jaunty-looking individual hastily entered the office.
"What do you want?" asked this person.
"I want to see Mr. Checkynshaw," replied Leo.
"Go through that door, and you will find him," added the jaunty-looking man, in hurried tones.
Leo, supposing the man belonged there, did as he was directed, and inquired of an elderly clerk, who had not left his desk, for the banker. He was told to wait in the private office, and he returned, as he was bidden.
He found the jaunty-looking person taking some papers from the safe. He put a quantity of them into the pockets of his overcoat, locked the heavy iron door, and took out the key.
"Mr. Checkynshaw won't be here again to-day. You will have to call to-morrow," said the man, in sharp and decided business tones.
"He sent for me to come to-day at half past two," replied Leo.
"He was unexpectedly called away; come again to-morrow at this time," added the jaunty person, briskly.
"I can't come to-morrow at this hour; school keeps."
"Come at one, then," replied the business man, who did not seem to care whether school kept or not.
"Will you tell him, sir, that I came as he wished, and will call again at one to-morrow?"
"Yes, yes. I will tell him all about it," answered the brisk personage, as he took a small carpet-bag in his hand, and led the way out through the banking-room.
The clerks had returned to their desks, and were again busy over their books and papers; for the excitement had subsided, and people went their way as though nothing had happened. The unwonted scene of a man in Mr. Checkynshaw's position putting a clerk out of his office excited a little comment, and the banker had stopped in the long hall to explain to a bank president the occasion of his prompt and decisive action. Leo and the jaunty man passed him as they left the building; but the boy did not know him from Adam.
"Where do you live, my boy?" asked the jaunty man, coming up to him when he had crossed State and entered Congress Street.
"No. 3 Phillimore Court," replied Leo.
He had before lost sight of the man, who, he had already concluded, from finding him in the private office and at the safe, was one of the partners in the house of Checkynshaw, Hart, & Co. He could not imagine what a person of so much importance could want of him, or how it concerned him to know where he lived.
"Is it far from here?"
"Not very far."
"I want the use of a room for five minutes, to change my clothes. I live out of town, and am going to New York to-night. Perhaps your mother would let me have a room for a short time," added the person.
"I haven't any mother; but you can have my room as long as you like," answered Leo, glad to accommodate so important a person. "It isn't a very nice one."
"Nice enough for me. How far is it?"
"Close by High Street; but it's right on your way to the cars."
"Very well; thank you. I'm much obliged to you. If it's far off, I can run up to a hotel, for I'm in a hurry. I have no time to spare."
The jaunty man walked at a rapid pace, and seemed to be greatly excited, which Leo attributed to his proposed journey, or to the pressure of his business.
"Do you know Mr. Checkynshaw?" asked the man of business.
"No, sir; I never saw him in my life, that I know of," replied Leo. "You are one of the partners—are you not?"
"Yes," replied the jaunty man, promptly.
"Are you Mr. Hart, sir?"
"That is my name. How did you know me?"
"I didn't know you; but I guessed it was Mr. Hart."
They hurried along in silence for a few moments more. Leo was thinking, just then, how it would be possible for Mr. Hart to tell Mr. Checkynshaw that he had called that day, and that he would call at one the next day, if he was going to New York by the afternoon train. He was quite sure Mr. Hart could not get back in time to tell the banker that he had obeyed his mandate. He was a little perplexed, and he was afraid the mighty man would be angry with him for not keeping the appointment, and perhaps visit the neglect upon his foster-father. Being unable to solve the problem himself, he ventured to ask Mr. Hart for a solution.
"It won't make any difference. Mr. Checkynshaw will not think of the matter again till he sees you to-morrow," replied Mr. Hart. "He will have enough to think of when he gets to the office to-morrow without troubling his head about you."
"Perhaps, as you are his partner, Mr. Hart, you can do the business just as well," said Leo.
"Very likely I can. What did Mr. Checkynshaw want of you?" asked the partner.
"He is going to discharge Fitz, and—"
"Discharge Fitz! What is that for?" demanded Mr. Hart, as if very much astonished at the intelligence.
"I don't exactly understand what for; but he wants me to come in his place; or at least he wants to see me about coming."
"Well, you seem to be a very likely young fellow, and I have no doubt you will suit us. I am willing to engage you, even after what little I have seen of you."
"But I can't go yet, Mr. Hart," interposed Leo.
"Why not? When can you come?"
"I can't go till the first of August; that's what I wanted to tell Mr. Checkynshaw. He was so kind as to think of me when he wanted a boy; and I want to have it made all right with him. I expect to take one of the Franklin medals at the next exhibition, and if I leave now I shall lose it."
"That's right, my boy; stick to your school, and I will see that you have a first-rate place when you have taken the medal. Haven't we got most to your house?"
"Just round the corner, sir. I'm afraid Mr. Checkynshaw will not like it because he did not see me this afternoon."
"He was out, and it isn't your fault; but I will tell him all about it when I come back, and he will not think of it again."
"But he wants a boy."
"Well, he can find a hundred of them in an hour's time; and, as you can't take the place, it will make no difference to you. I will make it all right with him so far as you are concerned."
"This is my house," said Leo, when they reached the dwelling at No. 3 Phillimore Court.
Leo opened the front door,—which was indeed the only door,—and led the banker to his own room on the second floor. The gentleman closed the door, and as there was no lock upon it, he placed a chair against it to serve as a fastening. He did not appear to be in a very great hurry now, and it was evident that he did not intend to change his clothes; for, instead of doing so, he took from the pockets of his overcoat the papers and packages he had removed from the safe. He broke the seals on some of the parcels, and opened the papers they contained. He did not stop to read any of them. In a bank book he found a package of bank notes.
"Three hundred and fifty dollars," muttered he, as he counted the money. "A mean haul!"
He examined all the papers, but no more money was discovered. The jaunty man looked as though he was sorely disappointed. He gathered up the papers, rolled them together, and then looked about the little chamber. On one side of it there was a painted chest, which contained Leo's rather scanty wardrobe. He raised the lid, and thrust the bundle of papers down to the bottom of it, burying them beneath the boy's summer clothing. Closing the chest, he took his carpet-bag, and left the room. Leo was waiting for him in the entry; but "Mr. Hart" was again in a hurry, and could not do anything more than say again he would make it all right with Mr. Checkynshaw.
Probably he did not keep his promise.
MR. CHECKYNSHAW RUSHES.
Mr. Checkynshaw felt that he had fully vindicated his personal dignity, and that of the well-known house whose head he was. The bank president he met in the entry did not think so, but believed that a person of such eminent gravity ought to call a policeman, instead of making himself ridiculous by resorting to violence. The banker explained, and then returned to his office. He was alone; and, seating himself in his cushioned chair, he gave himself up to the reflections of the moment, whatever they were.
Whether the grave charges and the angry threats of Mr. Fitzherbert Wittleworth were the subject of his thoughts was known only to himself; but as he reflected, the muscles of his mouth moved about, his brow contracted, and he seemed to be mentally defending himself from the charges, and repelling the threats. Certainly the bold accusation of the banker's late clerk had produced an impression, and stirred up the anger of the great man; but it was very impolitic for the discharged clerk to "beard the lion in his den."
The safe in the private office contained the valuable papers of the banker, while those of the firm whose head he was were placed in the vaults of the great banking-room. He kept the key of this safe himself. If it ever went into the hands of the clerk, it was only to bring it from the lock-drawer in the vaults; he was never trusted to deposit it there. Mr. Checkynshaw did not look at the safe till he had thoroughly digested the affair which had just transpired. When he was ready to go home to dinner, just before three o'clock, he went to the safe to lock it, and secure the key where prying curiosity could not obtain it.
It was not in the door, where he had left it; but this did not startle him. His thoughts appeared to be still abstracted by the subject which had occupied them since the affray, and he was walking mechanically about the office. He went to the safe as much from the force of habit as for any reason, for he always secured it when he was about to leave.
"Charles!" he called, raising one of the ground-glass windows between the office and the banking-room.
The door opened, and one of the younger clerks presented himself.
"Bring me the key of this safe from the drawer in the vault."
Charles bowed, and Mr. Checkynshaw continued to walk back and forth, absorbed in thought.
"The key of the safe is not in the drawer, sir," replied the clerk.
The banker tried the safe door, and then felt in all his pockets. The safe was locked, but he had not the key. He went to the vault himself, but with no better success than the clerk had had.
"The puppy!" muttered the banker. "He has stolen that key!"
Mr. Checkynshaw's lips were compressed, and his teeth were set tight together. He paced the room more rapidly than before.
"Fudge!" exclaimed he, after he had worked himself into a state of partial frenzy, as the hard muscles of his face suddenly relaxed, and something like a smile rested upon his lips. "He couldn't have done it."
Certainly not. The banker had not opened the safe till after his return from the barber's shop, where he had reproved his clerk, and Fitz did not go near the safe during the sharp interview in the office.
"Burnet," said the banker, going to the open window.
This time the elderly man, to whom Leo Maggimore had applied, presented himself.
"Have you seen the key of my safe?" demanded Mr. Checkynshaw.
"Where is it, then?"
"I do not know, sir," replied Burnet, whose communications were always "yea, yea; nay, nay."
"I have discharged Fitz."
"He was saucy."
Burnet bowed again.
"I kicked him out for his impudence."
Burnet bowed a third time.
"My key is gone."
"But the safe is locked."
Burnet glanced at the safe.
"Who has been in my office?"
"A boy, sir."
"I don't know, sir; he asked for you. I sent him to your office."
"That was the barber's boy."
Burnet bowed: he never wasted words; never left his desk to see a row or a military company, and would not have done so if an earthquake had torn up the pavement of State Street, so long as the banking-house of Checkynshaw, Hart, & Co. was undisturbed.
"Who else?" asked the banker.
"A man, sir."
"I don't know; he entered by your private door; the boy and the man went out together."
"Send for the safe people."
Burnet bowed, and retired. In half an hour two men from the safe manufactory appeared. They opened the iron door, and the banker turned pale when he found that his valuable papers had been abstracted. The three hundred and fifty dollars which "Mr. Hart" had taken was of no consequence, compared with the documents that were missing; for they were his private papers, on which other eyes than his own must not look.
The safe men fitted a new key, altering the wards of the lock, so that the old one would not open the door. What remained of the papers were secured; but those that were gone were of more importance than those that were left. Mr. Checkynshaw groaned in spirit. The threats of Mr. Fitzherbert Wittleworth seemed to have some weight now, and that young gentleman suddenly became of more consequence than he had ever been before. Fitz could not have stolen these papers himself, but he might have been a party to the act.
"Burnet!" called the banker.
The old clerk came again. Nothing ever excited or disturbed him, and that was what made him so reliable as a financial clerk and cashier. He never made any mistakes, never overpaid any one, and his cash always "balanced."
"What shall I do? My private papers have been stolen!" said the banker, nervously. "Who was the man that came out of the office?"
"I don't know, sir."
"What was he like?" demanded Mr. Checkynshaw, impatiently.
"Well-dressed, rowdyish, foppish."
"And the boy?"
"Fourteen or fifteen—looked well."
"Send for Andre Maggimore, the barber."
Burnet bowed and retired. Charles was sent to the saloon of Cutts & Stropmore; but it was four o'clock, and Andre had gone to dress the hair of Elinora Checkynshaw. The banker was annoyed, vexed, angry. He wanted to see the boy who had left the office with the man "well-dressed, rowdyish, foppish." He did not know where Leo lived, and the barber had no business to be where he could not put his hand on him when wanted. Impatiently he drew on his overcoat, rushed out of the office, and rushed into the shop of Cutts & Stropmore. Mr. Cutts did not know where Andre lived, and Mr. Stropmore did not know. Andre was always at the shop when he was wanted there, and they had no occasion to know where he lived. Probably they had known; if they had, they had forgotten. It was somewhere in High Street, or in some street or court that led out of High Street, or somewhere near High Street; at any rate, High Street was in the direction.
There was nothing in this very definite information that afforded Mr. Checkynshaw a grain of comfort. He was excited; but, without telling the barbers what the matter was, he rushed up State Street, up Court Street, up Pemberton Square, to his residence. He wanted a carriage; but of course there was no carriage within hailing distance, just because he happened to want one. He reached his home out of breath; but then his key to the night-latch would not fit, just because he was excited and in a hurry.
He rang the bell furiously. Lawrence, the man servant, was eating his dinner, and he stopped to finish his pudding. The banker rang again; but Lawrence, concluding the person at the door was a pedler, with needles or a new invention to sell, finished the pudding—pedlers ring with so much more unction than other people. The banker rang again. Fortunately for the banker, more fortunately for himself, Lawrence had completely disposed of the pudding, and went to the door.
"What are you about, you blockhead? Why don't you open the door when I ring?" stormed the banker.
"I think the bell must be out of order, sir," pleaded Lawrence, who had heard it every time it rang.
"Go and get a carriage, quick! If you are gone five minutes I'll discharge you!" added the great man, fiercely, as he rushed into the parlor.
"You are late to dinner," said Mrs. Checkynshaw.
"Don't talk to me about dinner! Where is Elinora?"
"Why, what is the matter?" asked the lady, not a little alarmed by the violent manner of the husband.
"Matter enough! Where is Elinora? Answer me, and don't be all day about it!"
"In her dressing-room. Andre, the hair-dresser, is with her."
Mr. Checkynshaw rushed up stairs, and rushed into the apartment where Andre was curling the hair of a pale, but rather pretty young lady of twelve. His abrupt appearance and his violent movements startled the nervous miss, so that, in turning her head suddenly, she brought one of her ears into contact with the hot curling-tongs with which the barber was operating upon her flowing locks.
"O, dear! Mercy! You have killed me, Andre!" screamed Elinora, as her father bolted into the room.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Checkynshaw," pleaded Andre.
"You have burned me to death! How you frightened me, pa!" gasped the young lady.
"Mind what you are about, Andre!" exclaimed the banker, sternly, as he examined the ear, which was not badly damaged.
"The young lady moved her head suddenly. It was really not my fault, sir," added Andre.
"Yes, it was your fault, Andre," replied Elinora, petulantly. "You mean to burn me to death."
"I assure you, mademoiselle—"
"Where do you live, Andre?" demanded the banker, interrupting him.
"Phillimore Court, No. 3," replied the barber.
"I want you to go there with me at once," bustled the banker. "Is your boy—What's his name?"
"Leo. Is he at home?"
"I think he is. Do you wish to see him, sir?"
"I do. Come with me, and be quick!"
"Leo would not be able to serve you, sir; he cannot leave his school."
"I want to see him; my safe has been robbed, and your boy was with the man who did it."
"Leo!" gasped the barber, dropping his hot iron upon the floor, and starting back, as though a bolt of lightning had blasted him.
"Yes; but come along! I tell you I'm in a hurry!" snapped Mr. Checkynshaw.
"He can't go now, pa," interposed the daughter. "He must finish dressing my hair."
"He shall return in a short time, Elinora," replied the banker.
"He shall not go!" added she, decidedly, and with an emphasis worthy of an only daughter.
"Leo!" murmured the poor barber, apparently crushed by the terrible charge against the boy.
"No. 3 Phillimore Court, you say," continued the banker, as he moved towards the door, yielding to the whim of the spoiled child.
The barber did not answer. His eyes rolled up in his head; he staggered and fell upon the floor. Elinora shrieked in terror, and was hurried from the room by her father.
Andre Maggimore had an apoplectic fit. Perhaps the immense dinner he had eaten in the shop had some connection with his malady; but the shock he received when the banker told him that Leo was implicated in the robbery of the safe was the immediate exciting cause. Andre was a great eater, and took but little exercise in the open air, and was probably predisposed to the disease. The dark shadow of trouble which the banker's words foreboded disturbed the circulation, and hastened what might otherwise have been longer retarded.
Doubtless Mr. Checkynshaw thought it was very inconsiderate in Andre Maggimore to have an attack of apoplexy in his house, in the presence of his nervous daughter, and especially when he was in such a hurry to ascertain what had become of his valuable private papers. If the banker was excited before, he was desperate now. He rang the bells furiously, and used some strong expressions because the servants did not appear as soon as they were summoned.
Lawrence had gone for the carriage, and one of the female servants was sent for the doctor. Mr. Checkynshaw handed his daughter over to her mother, who also thought it was very stupid for the barber to have a fit before such a nervous miss as Elinora. The banker returned to the room in which Andre lay. He turned him over, and wished he was anywhere but in his house, which was no place for a sick barber. But the doctor immediately came to his relief. He examined the patient; Andre might live, and might die—a valuable opinion; but the wisest man could have said no more.
Mr. Checkynshaw could not afford to be bothered by the affair any longer. He had pressing business on his hands. He directed the doctor to do all that was necessary, and to have his patient removed to his own residence as soon as practicable. After assuring himself that Elinora had neither been burned to death nor frightened to death, he stepped into the carriage, and ordered the driver to take him to No. 3 Phillimore Court.
The banker was very much annoyed by the awkwardness of the circumstances. He judged from what Andre had said, that he was much attached to his foster-son, and he concluded that Leo was equally interested in his foster-father. It was not pleasant to tell the boy that the barber had fallen in a fit, and might die from the effects of it; and if he did, Leo might not be able to give him the information he needed. It would confuse his mind, and overwhelm him with grief. Mr. Checkynshaw could not see why poor people should grieve at the sickness or death of their friends, though it was a fact they did so, just like rich people of sensibility and cultivation.
He thought of this matter as the driver, in obedience to his mandate, hurried him to Phillimore Court. If he told Leo, there would be an awkward scene, and he would be expected to comfort the poor boy, instead of worming out of him the dry facts of the robbery. If he had ever heard of Maggie, he had forgotten all about her. Had he thought of her, the circumstances would have appeared still more awkward. He had already decided not to inform Leo of the sudden illness of his father. When he reached the humble abode of the barber, and his summons at the door was answered by the fair Maggie, he was the more determined not to speak of the calamity which had befallen them.
Leo was at home; but it would be disagreeable to examine him in his own house, and in the presence of Maggie. He changed his tactics at once, and desired the boy to ride up to his office with him. Leo wondered what Mr. Checkynshaw could want of him at that time of day. It was strange that a person of his consequence had thought of him at all; and even "Mr. Hart" had proved to be a false prophet. He concluded that the banker had discharged Fitz, and needed a boy at once; but the gentleman was too imperative to be denied, and Leo did not venture to object to anything he proposed. He followed the great man into the carriage, and regarded it as a piece of condescension on his part to permit a poor boy like him to ride in the same vehicle with him.
Mr. Checkynshaw did not speak till the carriage stopped before the banking-house in State Street; and Leo was too much abashed by the lofty presence of the great man to ask any question, or to open the subject which he supposed was to be discussed in the private office. He followed the banker into that apartment, thinking only of the manner in which he should decline to enter the service of his intended employer before the completion of his school year.
"Burnet," said Mr. Checkynshaw, opening the window of the banking-room.
The old cashier entered, and bowed deferentially to the head of the house.
"Send for Mr. Clapp," added the banker; and Burnet bowed and retired, like an approved courtier.
Leo was not at all familiar with the police records, and had not learned that Mr. Clapp was the well-known constable,—the "Old Reed" or the "Old Hayes" of his day and generation,—and the name had no terrors to him.
"Boy, what is your name?" demanded Mr. Checkynshaw, when the door had closed behind the cashier.
"Leopold Maggimore, sir," replied he.
"Leopold," repeated the banker.
"I am generally called Leo, sir."
"Did the barber—your father, if he is your father—send you to my office to-day?"
"Yes, sir; he sent me, and I came; but you were not in."
"Why didn't you wait for me?"
"I was told you would not be back again to-day, sir."
"What time were you here?"
"At half past two, sir. There was some trouble in the entry at the time. A gentleman had a young fellow by the collar, and was putting him out of the building."
"Just so. Who was the gentleman?"
"I don't know, sir; I didn't see his face."
"I was that gentleman."
"I didn't know it, sir. It was just half past two, and I wanted to be on time."
"Who told you I should not be back again?" demanded the banker more sternly than he had before spoken.
"Mr. Hart," replied Leo, who regarded his informant as excellent authority.
"Mr. Hart!" exclaimed Mr. Checkynshaw, staring into the bright eyes of Leo to detect any appearance of deception.
The banker prided himself upon his shrewdness. He believed that, if there was any person in the world who was peculiarly qualified to expose the roguery of a suspected individual, he was that person. In conducting the present examination he only wanted Derastus Clapp for the terror of his name, rather than his professional skill as a detective.
Mr. Checkynshaw believed that he had intrapped his victim. Mr. Hart could not have told Leo that the head of the house would not return to the office that day, for the very simple reason that Mr. Hart was dead and gone. The old style of the firm was retained, but the Hart was gone out of it. The boy was telling a wrong story, and the banker laid his toils for unveiling the details of a gigantic conspiracy. Fitz lived somewhere in the vicinity of High Street,—Mr. Checkynshaw did not know where, for it would not be dignified for a great man like him to know where his clerk resided,—and it was more than possible that Leo and he were acquainted. Very likely the innocent-looking youth before him was an accomplice of Fitz, who, since the disappearance of the papers, had really become a terrible character.
"Yes, sir; Mr. Hart told me," repeated Leo, who could not see anything so very strange in the circumstance.
"Mr. Hart told you!" said the banker, again, endeavoring to overwhelm the boy by the intensity of his gaze.
"Yes, sir, Mr. Hart."
"Was Mr. Hart in this office?"
"What was Mr. Hart doing?"
"He wasn't doing anything. I was standing here waiting for you when he came in."
"Which way did he come in?" interrupted the banker.
"The same way we did just now," added Leo, pointing to the door which opened into the long entry.
"Very well; go on."
"He told me to go into the big room," continued Leo, pointing to the banking-room. "I went in there, and asked the man that just came in here for you."
"You asked Burnet for me?"
"I didn't know what his name was; but it was the man you just called in here."
"Burnet; go on."
"He told me to come in here and wait for you."
"Burnet told you so?"
"Yes, sir; and when I came back, Mr. Hart was taking some papers and things from that safe, and putting them in the pocket of his overcoat. Then he locked the safe, and put the key in his pocket."
"Go on," said Mr. Checkynshaw, excited by these details.
"Then Mr. Hart told me Mr. Checkynshaw would not be in again to-day, and I must come again to-morrow."
"I went out through the big room, and he came right after me."
Leo, without knowing why he was required to do so, described in full all that had taken place after he left the banking-room till "Mr. Hart" had changed his clothes, and left the house of Andre.
"How did you know this person was Mr. Hart?" asked the banker.
"He told me so, sir. I asked him before we got to my house if he was Mr. Hart, and he said he was. When he told me Mr. Checkynshaw was not in, and I saw him take the things out of the safe, and put the key in his pocket, I knew he belonged here, and being in this office, I guessed it was Mr. Hart. He promised to get me a good place when I leave school, and to explain the matter to you, and make it all right, when he came back from New York."
"Perhaps he will do so," added Mr. Checkynshaw, with a sneer.
But the banker was completely "nonplussed." He found it difficult to believe that this boy had anything to do with the robbery of his safe. At this point in the investigation, Mr. Clapp arrived. It was now quite dark. Most of the clerks in the banking-room had left; but Burnet was called, and instructed to remain with Leo, while the banker and the detective held a conference in the next room. Leo could not tell what it was all about. Not a word had been said about a boy to fill Fitz's place. He asked Burnet what Mr. Checkynshaw wanted of him; but the cashier was dumb.
After the banker had told the officer all about the affair, they went into the private office, and Leo was subjected to a long and severe questioning. Then he learned that "Mr. Hart" was not Mr. Hart, and that the safe had been plundered. He was filled with astonishment, not to say horror; but every answer he gave was straightforward, and at the end of it the skilled detective declared that he had had nothing to do with the robbery.
"Do you know Fitz Wittleworth?" demanded Mr. Checkynshaw, sharply.
"Did he ever say anything to you about me?"
"I have heard him call you Old Checkynshaw; but he never said anything that I can remember, except that you couldn't get along in your business without him."
"Did he ever say anything about any papers of mine?" asked the banker, scowling fiercely.
The banker plied Leo with questions in this direction; but he failed to elicit anything which confirmed his fears. A carriage was called, and Mr. Checkynshaw and the constable, taking Leo with them, were driven to the house of the barber.
When the banker and the detective reached the barber's house, the supper table was waiting for Andre and Leo. Perhaps Mr. Checkynshaw wondered how even a poor man could live in such a small house, with such "little bits of rooms." It had been built to fill a corner, and it fitted very snugly in its place. Andre thought it was the nicest house in Boston, and for many years it had been a palace to him.
It contained only four rooms, two on each floor. The two rooms up stairs were appropriated to the use of Maggie and Leo. The front room down stairs was required to do double duty, as a parlor, and a sleeping-room for Andre; but the bedstead was folded up into a secretary during the day. In the rear of this was the "living room." In the winter the parlor was not used, for the slender income of the barber would not permit him to keep two fires. In this apartment, which served as a kitchen, dining and sitting room, was spread the table which waited for Andre and Leo.
The barber almost always came home before six o'clock; for, in the vicinity of State Street, all is quiet at this hour, and the shop was closed. Maggie sat before the stove, wondering why Andre did not come; but she was not alarmed at his non-appearance, for occasionally he was called away to dress a lady's hair, or to render other "professional" service at the houses of the customers. Certainly she had no suspicion of the fearful truth.
She was rather startled when the unexpected visitors were ushered into the room by Leo; but the detective was gentle as a lamb, and even the banker, in the presence of one so fair and winning as Maggie, was not disposed to be rude or rough. Mr. Clapp asked some questions about the man who had come to the house that afternoon, and gone up to Leo's room. She had seen him, and her description of his appearance and his movements did not differ from that of her brother. No new light was obtained; but Mr. Clapp desired to visit the apartment which "Mr. Hart" had used.
Leo conducted the visitors to this room. It was possible, if the robber had changed his clothes there, that he had left something which might afford some clew to his identity. The detective searched the chamber, but not very carefully. As he did so, he told Leo that he desired to clear him from any connection with the crime.
"I hadn't anything to do with it, and I don't know anything about the man," replied Leo, blushing deeply.
"I don't think you had, my boy," added the officer, candidly. "But this man may have hidden something in the house, without your knowledge."
"I hope you will find it if he did. You may search the house from cellar to garret, if you like; but he didn't go into any room but this one."
"How long was he in this room?"
"Not more than twenty minutes, I guess; I don't know."
"Where were you while he was here?"
"I was down cellar."
"Down cellar!" exclaimed Mr. Checkynshaw. "All the time he was in the room?"
"What were you doing there?"
"I was at work there. When I heard Mr. Hart, or the man, whatever his name is, coming down stairs, I went up and met him in the entry. You can go down cellar, if you like."
"I think we will," said Mr. Checkynshaw.
The detective looked into the bed, under it, in the closets, drawers, and into the seaman's chest which contained Leo's wardrobe. He did not expect to find anything, and his search was not very thorough. He examined the till, and felt in the clothing; but he did not put his hand down deep enough to find the papers the robber had deposited there. If the rogue had left anything, he had no object in concealing it; and Mr. Clapp reasoned that he would be more likely to leave it in sight than to hide it.
When the search had been finished in the room, and the result was as the detective anticipated, Leo led the way to the cellar. Here was presented to the visitors a complete revelation of the boy's character and tastes—a revelation which assured the skilful detective, deeply versed as he was in a knowledge of human nature, that Leo was not a boy to be in league with bad men, or knowingly to assist a robber in disposing of his ill-gotten booty.
The cellar or basement was only partly under ground, and there was room enough for two pretty large windows at each end, the front and rear of the house, and in the daytime the apartment was as light and cheerful as the rooms up stairs. Across the end, under the front windows, was a workbench, with a variety of carpenter's tools, few in number, and of the most useful kind. On the bench was an unfinished piece of work, whose intended use would have puzzled a philosopher, if several similar specimens of mechanism, completed and practically applied, had not appeared in the cellar to explain the problem.
On the wall of the basement, and on a post in the centre of it, supported by brackets, were half a dozen queer little structures, something like miniature houses, all of them occupied by, and some of them swarming with, white mice. In the construction of these houses, or, as Andre facetiously called them, "Les Palais des Mice," Leo displayed a great deal of skill and ingenuity. He was a natural-born carpenter, with inventive powers of a high order. He not only made them neatly and nicely, but he designed them, making regular working plans for their construction.
The largest of them was about three feet long. At each end of a board of this length, and fifteen inches in width, was a box or house, seven inches deep, to contain the retiring rooms and nests of the occupants of the establishment. Each of these houses was three stories high, and each story contained four apartments, or twenty-four in the whole palace. The space between the two houses was open in front, leaving an area of twenty-two by fifteen inches for a playground, or grand parade, for the mice. The three sides of this middle space were filled with shelves or galleries, from which opened the doors leading into the private apartments. The galleries were reached by inclined planes, cut like steps.
Monsieur Souris Blanc passed from the gallery into one room, and from this apartment to another, which had no exterior door, thus securing greater privacy, though on the outside was a slide by which the curious proprietor of the palace could investigate the affairs of the family. Madame Souris Blanche, who considerately added from four to a dozen little ones to the population of the colony every three or four weeks, apparently approved this arrangement of rooms, though it was observed that three or four mothers, notwithstanding the multiplicity of strictly private apartments, would bring up their families in the same nest, cuddled up in the same mass of cotton wool.
Over the "grand parade" was a roof, which prevented the mice from getting out over the tops of the nest-houses. Though this space was open in front, and the play-ground protected only by a fence an inch high, the little creatures seldom fell out, for it was five feet to the floor of the cellar, and this was a giddy height for them to look down.
This establishment contained fifty or sixty white mice—from the venerable grandfather and grandmother down to the little juveniles two weeks old, to say nothing of sundry little ones which had not appeared on the "grand parade," and which looked like bits of beef, or more like pieces of a large fish worm. Other establishments on the wall contained smaller numbers; and, though it was impossible to count them, there were not less than a hundred and fifty white mice in the basement.
When Leo conducted the visitors to the cellar, all the tribes of mice were in the highest enjoyment of colonial and domestic bliss. Though most of them scampered to their lairs when the gentlemen appeared, they returned in a moment, looked at the strangers, snuffed and stared, and then went to work upon the buckwheat and canary seed, which Leo gave them as a special treat. Squatting on their hind legs, they picked up grains or seeds, and holding them in their fore paws, like squirrels, picked out the kernels.
In other houses, they were chasing each other along the galleries, performing various gymnastics on the apparatus provided for the purpose, or revolving in the whirligigs that some of the cages contained. It was after dark; and, having reposed during the day, they were full of life and spirit at night. The detective was delighted, and even Mr. Checkynshaw for a few moments forgot that his valuable papers had been stolen. Both of them gazed with interest at the cunning movements and the agile performances of the little creatures.
"I see why you remained down cellar so long," said the detective, with a smile.
"I was at work on that mouse-house," replied Leo, pointing to the bench.
The palace in process of construction was somewhat different from the others. Instead of being open in front of the "grand parade," it had a glass door, so that the occupants of the establishment could be seen, but could not fall out.
"What is that one for?" asked Mr. Clapp.
"I'm making that for Mr. Stropmore," answered Leo. "I gave him one lot, but his cat killed them all. The cat can't get at them in this house, and they can't fall out."
"Elinora would like to see them," said Mr. Checkynshaw, graciously.
"I should be very glad to show them to her, or to give her as many of them as she wants," replied Leo.
"Perhaps she will come and see them. But, Mr. Clapp, we must attend to business."
The detective was in no hurry to attend to business, so interested was he in the performances of the mice. He was quite satisfied that a boy whose thoughts were occupied as Leo's were could not be implicated in the robbery. The banker led the way up stairs, and Leo was questioned again. He described the rogue once more, and was sure he should know him if he saw him again. The banker said he would call and see Mrs. Wittleworth and her son, while the detective was to take the night train for New York, where "Mr. Hart" was supposed to have gone. The officer, who knew all the rogues, was confident, from the description, that the thief was "Pilky Wayne," a noted "confidence man." The theft was according to his method of operation.
"Where do you suppose father is?" asked Maggie, as Leo was about to leave the house to show Mr. Checkynshaw where Mrs. Wittleworth lived. "It is after seven o'clock, and he is never so late as this."
"I don't know," replied Leo. "I haven't seen him since one o'clock."
The banker was disturbed by the question. It would be annoying to tell such a pretty and interesting young lady, poor girl though she was, that her father was very ill. It would make a "scene," and he would be expected to comfort her in her great grief.
"Your father—Is he your father, miss?" asked he, doubtfully.
"He is just the same. He adopted both Leo and me," replied Maggie.
"He went to my house, this afternoon, to dress my daughter's hair," added Mr. Checkynshaw; and there was something in his manner which disturbed the fair girl.
"Is he there now?"
"Yes, I think he is. My people will take good care of him."
"Why, what do you mean, sir?" demanded Maggie. "Take good care of him?"
"He had an ill turn this afternoon."
"My father!" exclaimed Maggie.
"I sent for the doctor, and he has had good care," added the banker, as soothingly as he could speak, which, however, was not saying much.
"What ails him?"
"Well, it was an attack of apoplexy, paralysis, or something of that kind."
"My poor father!" ejaculated Maggie, her eyes filling with tears. "I must go to him at once."
Maggie took down her cloak and hood, and put them on.
Maggie's ideas of apoplexy or paralysis were not very definite, and she only understood that something very terrible had happened to her foster-father, whom she loved as though he had been her real parent. Leo was hardly less affected, though, being a boy, his susceptibility was not so keen. His first feeling was one of indignation that the banker had not told him before of the misfortune which had overtaken the family. It was cruel to have kept Maggie from her father a single moment longer than was necessary.
"Where is poor father now?" asked Maggie, as she adjusted her hood, and wiped the tears from her eyes.
"He is at my house; but you need not worry about him," replied Mr. Checkynshaw. "The doctor has attended to his case, and he shall have everything he needs."
"Where do you live, sir?" asked Leo.
"Come, Maggie, we will go to him," added the boy.
"I want you to go with me, and show me where Fitz lives," interposed the banker.
"He lives at No.—Atkinson Street, up the court," answered Leo, rather coolly, as he picked up his cap and comforter.
"I want you to show me the house."
"I must go with Maggie."
Mr. Checkynshaw looked as though the barber's serious illness was of no consequence, compared with his affairs.
"We can go that way, Leo, and you can show him the house as we pass through Atkinson Street," said Maggie, leading the way to the door.
This arrangement was satisfactory to the banker; the house was locked, and Leo led the way out of the court. The humble abode of Mrs. Wittleworth was pointed out to Mr. Checkynshaw; and, after he had been admitted, Leo and Maggie hastened to Pemberton Square, so sad and sorrowful that hardly a word was spoken till they reached the lofty mansion of the great man. With trembling hand Leo rang the bell; and Maggie's slender frame quivered with apprehension while they waited for a reply to the summons. Lawrence answered the bell more promptly than when its call had disturbed him at his dinner.
"Is Andre Maggimore here?" asked Leo, timidly.
"Who?" demanded Lawrence.
"Andre Maggimore—the barber—the hair-dresser," replied Leo.
"You mane the man that had the fit," added the servant. "Indade, he's here, thin."
"How is he?" asked Maggie, her heart bounding with fear lest she should be told that her poor father was no more.
"He's a little better; but the docthor says it'll be a long day till he is able to handle his razors again. What's this he called the disase? The para-ly-sis! That's just what it is!"
"Poor mon pere!" sighed Maggie.
"We would like to see him, if you please," added Leo.
"And who be you? Are you his children?" asked Lawrence.
"I'm sorry for you; but he's very bad," added Lawrence, who had an Irish heart under his vest, as he closed the front door.
"Is he—will he—"
Poor Maggie could not ask the question she desired to ask, and she covered her face and wept.
"No, he won't," replied Lawrence, tenderly. "He won't die. The docthor says he's comin' out of it; but the para-ly-sis will bodther him for a long time."
Maggie was comforted by this reply, and she followed Lawrence up stairs to the chamber where Andre lay. He had been conveyed from Elinora's dressing-room to an apartment in the L, over the dining-room, where the banker and his friends smoked their cigars after dinner. He was lying on a lounge, covered with blankets, and the housekeeper was attending him.
"Poor mon pere!" exclaimed Maggie, as she threw herself on her knees on the floor by the side of the sick man's couch, and kissed his pale, thin face.
Leo bent over his father's prostrate form, and clasped one of his silky hands, which now felt so cold that the touch chilled his heart. The doctor had just come in to pay his patient a second visit, and stood by the lounge, regarding with interest the devotion of the boy and girl.
Andre had "come out" of the fit, and recognized his children, as he always called them. He smiled faintly, and tried to return the pressure of Leo's hand, and to kiss the lips of Maggie, pressed to his own; but his strength was not yet equal to his desire.
"I think it would be better to remove him to the hospital," said the doctor to the housekeeper. "He will be well nursed there."
"No, no, no!" exclaimed Maggie, rising and walking up to the physician.
Her idea of the hospital was not a very clear one, and she did not consider it much better than a prison; at least, it was to her a place where sick people who had neither home nor friends were sent; a place where other hands than her own would lave her father's fevered brow, and administer the cooling draught. To her it was sacrilege to permit any but herself to nurse him; and she felt that it was a privilege to stand day and night by his bed, and hold his hand, and anticipate all his wants. Her womanly instincts were strong, and she heard with horror the suggestion to take the sufferer to the hospital.
"Your father would be very kindly cared for at the hospital," said the doctor.
"But it would not be his own home!" pleaded Maggie. "O, he so loves his own home! He always staid there when he was not in the shop. It would break his heart to send him away from his own home when he is sick."
"Have you a mother?" asked Dr. Fisher, kindly.
"I have not; but I will nurse him by day and night. I will be mother, wife, and daughter to him. Do not send him away from me—not from his own home!" continued Maggie, so imploringly that the good physician had to take off his spectacles and wipe the moisture from his eyes.
"We will take good care of him at home," added Leo.
"Very well," replied the doctor. "He shall be removed to his own home, since you desire it so much. Lawrence, will you send for a carriage?"
"I will, sir," answered the servant, leaving the room.
Andre had turned his eyes towards the group, and appeared to understand the matter they were discussing. He smiled as he comprehended the decision, and made an effort to embrace Maggie, when she again knelt at his side; but a portion of his frame was paralyzed, and he could not move.
"Your father may be sick a long time," said Dr. Fisher.
"I'm so sorry! But I will take such good care of him!" replied Maggie.
"He needs very careful nursing."
"O, he shall have it! He would rather have me nurse him than any other person. I will watch him all the time. I will sit by his bed all day and all night," added she, with womanly enthusiasm.
"You will wear yourself out. You are not strong enough to do without your sleep."
"I am very strong, sir. I do all the work in the house myself. I know how to make gruel, and porridge, and beef tea, and soup; and mon pere shall have everything nice."
The doctor smiled, and felt sure that no better nurse could be provided for the sick man.
"Where is your mother?" he asked. "Is she living?"
"I have no mother. Leo has no mother. We are not Andre's own children; but we love him just the same, and he loves us just the same."
"But who was your mother?"
"I don't know."
"Doesn't Andre know?"
"He does not."
"You have some kind of a history, I suppose," added the doctor, greatly interested in the girl.
"Mon pere don't like to talk about it. He seems to be afraid that some one will get me away from him; but I'm sure I don't want to go away from him; I wouldn't leave him for a king's palace."
"Why do you call him 'mon pere'?"
"He taught me to call him so when I was little. Andre's father was an Italian, and his mother a French woman; but he was born in London."
"Where did he find you?"
"At the cholera hospital."
"I don't know. He always looked so sad, and his heart seemed to be so pained when I asked him any questions about myself, that I stopped doing so long ago. When I was five years old, he found me playing about the hospital, where hundreds and hundreds of people had died with cholera. I had the cholera myself; and he came to play with me every day; and when they were going to send me to an orphan asylum, or some such place, he took me away, and promised to take care of me. Ah, mon pere" said she, glancing tenderly at the sick man, and wiping a tear from her eyes, "how well he has kept his promise! I can't help thinking he loved me more than any real father could. I never saw any father who was so kind, and tender, and loving to his child as Andre is to me."
"And you don't know where this hospital was?"
"No, sir; and I don't want to know. Mon pere thinks my parents died of the cholera; but Andre has been father and mother to me. He would die if he lost me."
"And your brother—was he taken from the cholera hospital?" asked the doctor.
"No, sir," replied Maggie, rising and speaking in a whisper to the physician, so that Leo should not hear what she said. "Andre had to leave me all alone when he went to the shop, and he went to the almshouse to find a poor orphan to keep me company. He found Leo, whose father and mother had both died from drinking too much. He took him home, and mon pere has been as good to him as he has to me."
"His name is Leo—the Lion?"
"No, sir; not the lion. Mon pere called him Leopold, after the King of Belgium, in whose service he once was; but we always call him Leo. He is a real good boy, and will get the medal at his school this year."
"The carriage has come, sir," said Lawrence, opening the door.
The arrangements were made for the removal of the barber to his house. The hackman and the man servant came to carry him down stairs in an armchair, and the doctor was to go with his patient, and assist in disposing of him at his house. Andre was placed in the chair, covered with blankets, and the door opened in readiness to carry him down. Maggie kept close to him, comforting him with the kindest words, and adjusting the blanket so that the rude blasts of winter might not reach him.
"Lawrence!" called Elinora, in a petulant tone, from the dressing-room on the same floor.
Under the circumstances, Lawrence was not disposed to heed the call; but it was so often and so ill-naturedly repeated, that Dr. Fisher told him to go and see what she wanted, fearful that some accident had happened to her. The man went into the hall. Elinora had come out of her room in her impatience, arrayed for the party she was to attend. Another hair-dresser had been sent for to complete the work which Andre had begun; but the young lady was more than an hour late, and proportionally impatient.
"Are you deaf, Lawrence? The carriage has come," pouted Elinora.
"That's not the carriage for you, miss. It's to take the barber to his own place," replied Lawrence.
"That horrid barber again! I shall not get over the fright he gave me for a month! I will take this carriage, and he may have the other when it comes," said she, walking to the stairs. "Go down and open the door for me."
"If you plaze, miss, you can't go in this carriage. It's for the sick man."
"I don't care what it's for! I'm in a hurry, Lawrence. I must have the first carriage."
"Indade, miss, but we have the sick man up in the chair, ready to take him down the stairs. It's very bad he is."
"Let him wait! Go down and open the door, as I tell you."
"I beg your pardon, miss, but the docthor—"
"If you don't do what I tell you this instant, I'll ask pa to discharge you."
Dr. Fisher came out to ascertain the cause of the delay. He explained that the carriage had been ordered to convey the barber to his home, and he insisted that it should be used for that purpose. Andre was his patient, and he would not permit any further delay. Elinora pouted and flouted, and hopped back into her chamber.
Andre was borne carefully down the stairs, and placed in the carriage. Maggie and the doctor entered the vehicle with him, and they were driven to the barber's own home, where he was placed upon his bed in the front room.
MAKE OR BREAK.
Maggie plied the kind-hearted physician with questions in regard to her father's condition—with questions which no man with merely human knowledge could answer. He thought Andre would be able to talk to her by the next day; but he feared the patient would not be well enough to resume his place in the shop for weeks, and perhaps months.
Andre appeared to be quite comfortable, and did not seem to be suffering very severely. The doctor had given him some medicine before he was removed from the banker's house, and the sick man went to sleep soon after he was put to bed in his own room. Dr. Fisher then went out into the rear room, and told Maggie that her father would probably sleep for several hours.
"I will come again in the morning, Maggie," said he. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Nothing more, I thank you, sir," replied she. "I am very grateful to you for what you have done."
"I know nothing about your father's circumstances; but if you need any assistance, I hope you will make it known."
"Thank you, sir; I don't think we need anything," replied Maggie, a slight blush mantling her pretty face; for the idea of asking or accepting charity was painful to her.
"I fear it will be a long time before your father will be able to work again," continued Dr. Fisher, glancing around the room to ascertain, if possible, whether the singular family were in poverty or in plenty.
"I will take good care of him, whether it be for weeks or for months, or even for years. You don't know how sorry I am to have poor mon pere sick; but you can't think what a pleasure it is to me to have an opportunity to do something for him. I wish I could tell you how good and kind he has always been to me; how tenderly he watched over me when I was sick; how lovingly he prayed for me; but I cannot, though it makes me happy to think I can now do something for him."
"You are a good girl, Maggie, and I don't see how Andre could have done any less for you," replied the doctor. "Who keeps house here?"
"O, I do that, sir."
"Then you must have to work very hard."
"Indeed, I don't! I have to keep busy almost all day; but it is such a pleasure to me to know that I am doing something for mon pere, that I never think it is hard at all."
Everything looked so neat and nice in the house that the doctor could not decide whether any assistance was required or not. He was one of those good physicians who felt for the poor and the humble. Though he practised in some of the richest and most aristocratic families in the city, his mission was not to them alone. He visited the haunts of poverty, and not only contributed his professional services in their aid, but he gave with no stinted hand from his own purse to relieve their wants. When he died, the sermon preached on the Sunday after his funeral was from the text, "The beloved physician;" and no one ever went to his reward in heaven who better deserved the praise bestowed upon him.
In the present instance, he felt that his work was not alone to heal the sick. His patient was a journeyman barber, with only a boy, and a girl of fifteen, to depend upon. This same doctor often went among his friends in State Street, in 'change hours, to preach the gospel of charity in his own unostentatious way. All gave when he asked, and it was not a very difficult matter for him to raise fifty or a hundred dollars for a deserving family. He purposed to do this for those under the barber's humble roof, who, without being connected by the remotest tie of blood, were more loving and devoted towards each other than many whom God had joined by the ties of kindred.
The doctor never told anybody of his good deeds. Hardly did his left hand know what his right hand did; and one of his eyes, which followed not the other's apparent line of vision, seemed to be looking out all the time for some hidden source of human suffering. He was as tender of the feelings of others as he was of the visible wounds of his patients. He saw the blush upon the cheeks of Maggie, and he interpreted it as readily as though the sentiment had been expressed in words. He forbore to make any further inquiries in regard to the pecuniary condition of the strange family; but he was determined that all their wants should be supplied, without injury to their laudable pride. He went away, and Maggie and Leo were left to themselves.
"You haven't been to supper, Leo," said Maggie, when Dr. Fisher had gone.
"I don't seem to care about any supper," replied Leo, gloomily.
"You must eat your supper, Leo," added Maggie, as she placed the teapot on the table. "There are some cold sausages I saved for mon pere. Sit down, Leo. We must work now, and we need all the strength we can get."
Then she crept on tiptoe into the front room, and looked into the face of the sleeper. He was still slumbering, and she returned to the table, seating herself in her accustomed place, near the stove. Leo looked heavy and gloomy, as well he might; for the sad event of that day promised to blast the bright hopes in which his sanguine nature revelled. He knew, and Maggie knew, that Andre Maggimore had made no preparation for the calamity which had so suddenly overtaken him.
It was Wednesday, and the wages of the preceding week were more than half used. He had no money, no resources, no friends upon whom he could depend, to fall back on in the day of his weakness. The barber was faithful and affectionate as a woman, but he had no business calculation, and his forethought rarely extended beyond the duration of a single week. While he owed no man anything, and never contracted any debts, he had never saved a dollar beyond what he had invested in furnishing the small house.
The dark day had come, and Leo was the first to see it. In another week, or, at most, in two weeks, every dollar the barber had would have been spent. It was plain enough to him that he could not continue to attend school till exhibition day came, and he would lose the medal he coveted, and for which he had worked most diligently. Maggie poured out his cup of tea, and handed it to him. He was eating his supper; but his head was bowed down.
"Leo," said she.
He looked up with a start, took his tea, and immediately lost himself again.
"Leo!" added Maggie, in her peculiarly tender tones.
He looked up again.
"What are you thinking about, Leo?" she continued, gazing earnestly at him. "I need not ask you, Leo. You are thinking of poor mon pere."
"I was thinking of him. I was thinking, too, that I should lose my medal now," replied Leo, gloomily.
"Fie on your medal! Don't think of such a trifle as that!" she added, gently rebuking the selfish thought of her brother.
"You don't quite understand me, Maggie."
"I hope you are not thinking of yourself, Leo—only of mon pere."
"I was thinking that he has worked for me, and now I must work for him. I must give up my school now."
"You must, indeed, Leo."
"We can't stay in this house unless we pay the rent. Father made ten dollars a week, and it took every cent of it to pay the expenses. What shall we do now?"
"We must both work."
"We can't make ten dollars a week if both of us work. But you can't do anything more than take care of father. I don't see how we are going to get along. Fitz Wittleworth has only five dollars a week at Mr. Checkynshaw's. If he gave me the same wages, it wouldn't more than half pay our expenses."
Maggie looked puzzled and perplexed at this plain statement. It was a view of the situation she had not before taken, and she could not suggest any method of solving the difficult problem.
"We can reduce our expenses," said she, at last, a cheerful glow lighting up her face as she seemed to have found the remedy.
"You can't reduce them. The doctor's bill and the medicines will more than make up for anything we can save in things to eat and drink."
"That's very true, Leo. What shall we do?" inquired Maggie, sorrowfully, as her ingenious argument was overthrown.
"I don't know what we can do. They say doctors charge a dollar a visit, and that will make seven dollars a week. The medicines will cost another dollar, at least, perhaps two or three. That makes eight dollars. Even if we save three dollars a week in provisions and such things, it will cost fifteen dollars a week. I might as well try to fly as to make that. I couldn't do it. It's half as much again as father could make."
"O, dear!" sighed Maggie, appalled by this array of financial demands.
"I suppose the doctor won't bring in his bill yet a while," added Leo.
"But we must pay him. Mon pere would worry himself to death in a short time if he knew he was getting in debt."
"I don't see how we can do it."
Leo relapsed into silence again, and finished his supper. The problem troubled him. He sat down by the stove, and did not move for half an hour. Maggie cleared off the table, washed the dishes and put them away, creeping stealthily into the front room every few moments to assure herself that all was well with her father.
"Leo, don't worry any more. We shall be cared for somehow. Our good Father in heaven will watch over us in the future, as he has in the past. Trust in God, Leo," said Maggie, impressively. "I will not worry any more, and you must not."
"I will trust in God; but God expects me to do something more than that. He helps those who help themselves. I am going to do something!" exclaimed he, springing to his feet. "MAKE OR BREAK, I'm going to do my duty; I'm going to do my whole duty."
"What are you going to do, Leo?"
"I don't know yet; but, make or break, I'm going to do something. It's no use for me to work for Mr. Checkynshaw at five dollars a week, when it will cost us fifteen dollars a week to get along. I'm going to do something," continued Leo, as he took a lamp from the shelf and lighted it.
Then he stopped before Maggie, and looked her full in the face, his eyes lighting up with unusual lustre.
"Why, what's the matter, Leo? What makes you look at me so?"
"Maggie, Andre is not our own father; but he has done all that an own father could do for us. Maggie, let me take your hand."
She gave him her hand, and was awed by the impressive earnestness of his manner.
"Maggie, I'm going to do my duty now. I want to promise you that poor father shall never want for anything. I want to promise you that I will do all for him that a real son could do."
"Good, kind Leo! We will both do our whole duty."
Leo dropped her hand, and went down stairs into his workshop. The white mice were capering and gamboling about their palatial abodes, all unconscious that poor Andre had been stricken down. Leo gave them their suppers, and sat down on the work-bench. He was in deep thought, and remained immovable for a long time.
He was a natural mechanic. His head was full of mechanical ideas. Was there not some useful article which he could make and sell—a boot-jack, a work-box, a writing-desk—something new and novel? He had half a dozen such things in his mind, and he was thinking which one it would pay best to mature. His thought excited him, and he twisted about on the bench, knocking a chisel on the floor. The noise frightened the mice, and they made a stampede to their nests. He looked up at them.
"That's an idea!" exclaimed he, leaping off the bench. "Make or break, I'll put it through!"
MR. CHECKYNSHAW AND FAMILY.
We left Mr. Checkynshaw entering the house of Mrs. Wittleworth, in Atkinson Street; and, as he was a gentleman of eminent dignity and gravity, we feel compelled to beg his pardon for leaving him so long out in the cold of a winter night. Having made the barber as comfortable as the circumstances would permit, we are entirely willing to let the banker in, though the abode at which he sought admission was hardly worthy of the distinguished honor thus conferred upon it.
Mrs. Wittleworth cautiously opened the door, for those who have the least to steal are often the most afraid of robbers; but, recognizing the lofty personage at the door, she invited him to enter, much wondering what had driven him from his comfortable abode in Pemberton Square to seek out her obscure residence at that hour in the evening. Mr. Checkynshaw was conducted to an apartment which served as kitchen, parlor, and bed-room for the poor woman, her son having a chamber up stairs. A seat was handed to the great man, and he sat down by the cooking-stove, after bestowing a glance of apparent disgust at the room and its furnishings.
The banker rubbed his hands, and looked as though he meant business; and Mrs. Wittleworth actually trembled with fear lest some new calamity was about to be heaped upon the pile of misfortunes that already weighed her down. Mr. Checkynshaw had never before darkened her doors. Though she had once been a welcome guest within his drawing-rooms, she had long since been discarded, and cast out, and forgotten. When the poor woman, worse than a widow, pleaded before him for the means of living, he had given her son a place in his office, at a salary of five dollars a week. If she had gone to him again, doubtless he would have done more for her; but, as long as she could keep soul and body together by her ill-paid drudgery, she could not endure the humiliation of displaying her poverty to him.
Mrs. Wittleworth had once lived in affluence. She had been brought up in ease and luxury, and her present lot was all the harder for the contrast. Her father, James Osborne, was an enterprising merchant, who had accumulated a fortune of a hundred thousand dollars, on which he had the good sense to retire from active business. Of his four children, the two sons died, leaving the two daughters to inherit his wealth.