RANDY OF THE RIVER
THE ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG DECKHAND
HORATIO ALGER, JR.
AUTHOR OF "NELSON THE NEWSBOY," "OUT FOR BUSINESS," "THE YOUNG BOOK AGENT," "LOST AT SEA," "RAGGED DICK SERIES," ETC.
GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS :: :: NEW YORK
THE RISE IN LIFE SERIES
By Horatio Alger, Jr.
OUT FOR BUSINESS; Or, Robert Frost's Strange Career.
FALLING IN WITH FORTUNE; Or, The Experiences of a Young Secretary
NELSON THE NEWSBOY, Or, Afloat in New York.
JERRY THE BACKWOODS BOY, Or, The Parkhurst Treasure.
FROM FARM TO FORTUNE, Or, Nat Nason's Strange Experience.
YOUNG CAPTAIN JACK, Or, The Son of a Soldier.
THE YOUNG BOOK AGENT, Or, Frank Hardy's Road to Success.
LOST AT SEA, Or, Robert Roscoe's Strange Cruise.
RANDY OF THE RIVER, Or, The Adventures of a Young Deckhand.
Cloth. 12mo. Illustrated Price, 60 cents per volume.
Copyright, 1906 BY STITT PUBLISHING COMPANY
Randy of the River.
The majority of stories for boys have their background laid either in the city or the country, or possibly on the ocean, and we have read much about the doings of lads both rich and poor in such locations.
In the present tale we have a youth of sturdy qualities who elects to follow the calling of a deckhand on a Hudson River steamboat, doing his duty faithfully day by day, and trying to help others as well as himself. Like all other boys he is at times tempted to do wrong, but he has a heart of gold even though it is hidden by a somewhat ragged outer garment, and in the end proves the truth of that old saying that it pays to be honest,—not only in regard to others but also regarding one's self.
Life on a river steamboat is not so romantic as some young people may imagine. There is hard work and plenty of it, and the remuneration is not of the best. But Randy Thompson wanted work and took what was offered. His success in the end was well deserved, and perhaps the lesson his doings teach will not be lost upon those who peruse these pages. It is better to do what one finds to do than to fold your hands and remain idle, and the idle boy is sure, sooner or later, to get into serious mischief.
I. SOMETHING ABOUT RANDY 7
II. AT THE FISHING HOLE 17
III. EXPOSING BOB BANGS 26
IV. RANDY AT HOME 36
V. THE RESULT OF A QUARREL 45
VI. THE IRON WORKS AFFAIR 54
VII. MORE TROUBLES FOR RANDY 62
VIII. RANDY AND HIS UNCLE PETER 70
IX. THE NEW HOME 80
X. SAMMY'S FOURTH OF JULY 88
XI. RANDY TO THE RESCUE 99
XII. A STEAMBOAT MAN 108
XIII. MR. SHALLEY MAKES AN OFFER 118
XIV. BOB BANGS AND HIS HORSE 127
XV. RANDY AS A DECKHAND 135
XVI. IN NEW YORK CITY 145
XVII. THE PURSER HAS HIS SAY 153
XVIII. A MEETING ON THE RIVER 161
XIX. AN UNLOOKED-FOR ENCOUNTER 169
XX. WHAT CAME OF A DEMAND 177
XXI. RANDY VISITS HIS HOME 186
XXII. MR. BARTLETT MAKES A MOVE 193
XXIII. THE PAPERS IN THE SAFE 201
XXIV. ANOTHER HIDING PLACE 208
XXV. A VICTORY FOR RANDY 215
XXVI. NEW TROUBLES 222
XXVII. RANDY MAKES A DISCOVERY 229
XXVIII.OUT OF A TIGHT CORNER 237
XXIX. GEORGE GAFFNEY'S STATEMENT 244
XXX. A SWIM FOR LIFE 252
XXXI. NEWS OF IMPORTANCE 259
XXXII. BROUGHT TO TERMS—CONCLUSION 265
RANDY OF THE RIVER
SOMETHING ABOUT RANDY
"I am going fishing, Randy. Do you want to go along?"
"With pleasure, Jack," answered Randy Thompson, a bright, manly youth of fourteen. "Are you going on foot or in your boat?"
"I think we might as well take the boat," returned Jack Bartlett, a boy who was but a few months older than Randy. "Have you your lines handy?"
"No, but I can get them in less than ten minutes."
"All right. Meet me at the dock in quarter of an hour. I was thinking of going up the river to Landy's Hole. That's a good spot, isn't it?"
"I think so. Last season I was up there and caught fourteen good-sized fish."
"They tell me you are one of the best fishermen in Riverport, Randy," went on Jack Bartlett, admiringly. "What is the secret of your success?"
"I don't know unless it is patience," answered Randy, with a broad smile. "To catch fish you must be patient. Now when I caught my mess of fourteen two other boys were up to the Hole. But just because the fish did not bite right away they moved away, further up the river. But by doing that they got only about half as many as myself."
"Well, I am willing to be patient if I know I am going to catch something."
At this Randy laughed outright.
"You can't be sure of anything—in fishing. But I always reckon it's a good thing to hold on and give a thing a fair trial."
"I reckon you're right, Randy, and I'll give the fishing a fair trial to-day," answered Jack Bartlett. "Remember, the dock in quarter of an hour," he added, as he moved away.
"I'll be on hand—unless mother wants me to do something for her before I go away," returned Randy.
Randy, or rather Randolph, Thompson, to use his right name, was the only son of Louis Thompson, a carpenter of Riverport, a thriving town in one of our eastern states. Randy had no brothers or sisters, and lived with his father and mother in a modest cottage on one of the side roads leading to the hills back of the town. Randy was a scholar in the local school, standing close to the head of his class. It was now summer time and the institution of learning was closed, so the boy had most of his time to himself.
He had wanted to go to work, to help his father, who had some heavy doctors' bills to pay, but his parents had told him to take at least two weeks' vacation before looking for employment.
"He needs it," Mrs. Thompson had said to her husband. "He has applied himself very closely to his studies ever since last fall."
"Well, let him take the vacation and welcome," answered Louis Thompson. "I know when I was a boy I loved a vacation." He was a kind-hearted man and thought a good deal of his offspring and also of his wife, who was devoted to him.
The cottage stood back in the center of a well-kept garden, where Mrs. Thompson had spent much time over her flowers, of which she was passionately fond. It was a two-story affair, containing but five rooms, yet it was large enough for the family, and Randy, who had never known anything better, considered it a very good home. There was a small white fence in front, with a gate, and the path to the front stoop was lined with geraniums. Over the porch was trained a honeysuckle which filled the air with its delicate fragrance.
"Mother, I'm going fishing with Jack Bartlett!" cried Randy, running around to the kitchen, where his mother was busy finishing up the week's ironing.
"Very well, Randy," she answered, setting down her flatiron and giving him a smile. "I suppose you won't be back until supper time."
"It's not likely. Can I do anything for you before I go?"
"You might get a bucket of water and another armful of wood."
"I'll do that," answered Randy, and caught up the water bucket. "Anything else?"
"No. Take care of yourself while you are on the river."
"Don't worry about me, mother. Remember, I can swim like a fish."
"Yes, I know. But you must be careful anyway," answered Mrs. Thompson, fondly.
The water and wood were quickly brought into the cottage, Randy whistling merrily while he performed these chores. Then the youth ran for his fishing outfit, after which he took the spade, went down to the end of the garden, and turned up some worms, which he placed in a pasteboard box.
"Now I am off, mother!" he called out.
"Good-by, Randy," she said, and waved him a pleasant adieu from the open kitchen window.
"She's the best mother a boy ever had," thought Randy, as he walked away to join Jack at the dock.
"What a good boy!" murmured Mrs. Thompson. "Oh, I hope he grows up to be a good man!"
When Randy arrived at the dock he found himself alone. He brought out the boat and cleaned it up and got the oars. He was all ready for the start when a boy somewhat older than himself slouched up.
The newcomer was loudly dressed in a checked suit and wore a heavy watchchain, a big seal ring, and a diamond shirt stud. He might have been good-looking had it not been for the supercilious scowl of independence upon his face.
"Hullo there, Randy Thompson!" he called out. "What are you doing in Jack Bartlett's boat?"
His manner was decidedly offensive and did not suit Randy at all.
"I don't know as that is any of your business, Bob Bangs," he answered coldly.
"Humph! Jack won't thank you for getting out his boat," went on Bob Bangs. "If you want a boat why don't you hire one?"
"I don't have to hire one," answered Randy.
"You wouldn't dare to touch my boat," continued Bob, who was known as the town bully. His father was rich and for that reason he thought he could ride over all the other boys.
"I shouldn't care to touch it," said Randy.
"Don't you know you haven't any right to touch Jack's boat without his permission?" went on the big youth.
"Bob Bangs, this is none of your business."
"Humph! I'll make it my business."
"If you do, you may get into trouble."
"I'll risk that. If you don't get out of that boat I'll tell Jack."
"I am not going to get out of the boat."
"Maybe I'll make you get out," and Bob Bangs came a step closer, and put his hand on the gunwale of the rowboat.
"You leave me and the boat alone," said Randy, sharply.
"You get out of that boat."
"Not for you."
Bob Bangs looked ugly. He was on the point of catching Randy by the collar when an interruption came from behind.
"So you got here ahead of me, eh?" came in Jack's voice, as he approached on a swift walk. "I had to do an errand for father and that kept me."
As Jack came up Bob Bangs fell back in disgust.
"Humph! Why didn't you say you were waiting for Jack?" he said to Randy, with a sour look on his face.
"You didn't ask me, that's why," returned Randy.
"What's the trouble?" questioned Jack, quickly.
"Bob wanted me to leave the boat alone."
"I thought he was trying to sneak it on the sly," explained the big boy. "I didn't know you cared to go out with him," he added, to Jack, with a toss of his head.
"Why shouldn't I go out with Randy?" asked Jack, quickly.
"Oh, I shouldn't care to go out with the son of a poor carpenter."
"See here, Bob Bangs, I consider myself as good as you," said Randy, quickly.
"Randy is all right, even if his father is a carpenter," said Jack. "It's mean of you, Bob, to talk that way."
"Choose your own company and I'll choose mine," answered Bob Bangs, loftily, and stalked away, his nose tilted high in the air.
Angry words arose to Randy's lips but he repressed them and said nothing. In a moment more some goods on the dock hid the big boy from view.
"Don't you care for what he says," said Jack, quickly. "He thinks a few dollars are everything in this world."
"I didn't mind him—much, Jack."
"Wanted you to get out of my boat, didn't he?"
"Yes. He didn't know I was waiting for you."
"That was a good joke on him."
"I can't understand why he is so disagreeable."
"It was born in him," said Jack, as he leaped into the rowboat and stowed away his fishing outfit. "His father is the same way and so is his mother. They think that just because they have money everybody else, especially a poor person, is dirt under their feet."
"Why, Jack, I guess your father is as rich as Mr. Bangs."
"Maybe he is."
"And you don't put on such airs."
"And I don't intend to. Money is a good thing to have, but it isn't everything—that is what my father and mother say."
"Bob wouldn't want me out in his boat with him."
"Maybe you wouldn't like to go out with him either."
"You are right there. I am getting so I hate to speak to him."
"Well, I am getting that way, too. Every time we meet he tries to impress it upon me that he is a superior person,—and I don't see it."
"Your father and his father have some business dealings, haven't they?"
"Yes, they are interested in the same iron company,—and from what father says, I think they are going to have trouble before long."
"I hope your father comes out ahead."
"It is this way: Father has a controlling interest and Mr. Bangs is doing his best to get it away from him. If Mr. Bangs can get control he will, so father says, join the company of a larger concern, and then father will be about wiped out and he won't get more than half of what is really coming to him."
"But wouldn't that be fraud?"
"Yes, morally, but not legally—so father says," answered Jack, and heaved a sigh. "I hope it all comes out right."
"And so do I—for your sake as well as for your folks," added Randy, heartily.
AT THE FISHING HOLE
The fishing hole for which the two boys were bound was on the river about a mile and a half above the town. At this point the stream was thirty to forty feet wide and ten to fifteen feet deep. It was lined on one side with sharp rocks and on the other by thick trees and bushes. At the foot of some of the rocks, where the river made a bend, there was a deep hole, and this some of the lads, including Randy and Jack, considered an ideal place for fishing.
The boys did not row directly for the hole, being afraid they might scare the fish away. Instead they landed below the spot, tied fast to a tree root between the stones, and then crawled over the big rocks until they reached a point from which they could cast into the hole with ease.
They soon baited up. Randy was ready first, but he gave his companion the chance to make the initial cast. Scarcely had Jack's hook touched the water when there came a jerk and the line was almost pulled from the boy's hands.
"You've got him!" cried Randy, excitedly. "Good for you!"
"If I don't lose him before I get him on the rocks!" answered Jack. But his fears were groundless, for a few seconds later the catch lay at his feet—a fish weighing at least a pound and a half.
"That's the way to do it," said Randy.
"You might have had him—if you had cast in first," answered his companion, modestly.
"I'll try my luck now," and Randy cast in without delay. Then Jack also tried it again, and both boys began to fish in earnest. Soon Randy got a bite and brought in a fish weighing as much as the first catch.
"Now we are even," said Jack.
In an hour Randy had four good-sized fish to his credit and Jack had an equal number. Then Jack's luck fell away and Randy got three more while his companion got nothing.
"There is no use of talking, you are a better fisherman than I," said Jack.
"I think you drop down too deep," answered Randy. "Try it this way," and he showed his friend what he meant.
After that Jack's success was a trifle better, but still Randy kept ahead of him.
When the boys had caught twenty fish between them they decided to give up the sport. Randy knew where they could find some blackberries, and leaving their fish in a hole among the rocks, where there was a small pool of water, they tramped away from the river to where the blackberry bushes were located.
"These are fine," said Jack, eating a handful with a relish. "Randy, we ought to come berrying here some day."
"I am willing."
"These berries would make the nicest kind of pies."
"Yes, indeed! And if there is anything I love it is a good, juicy blackberry pie."
"If we had a kettle we might take some home with us now."
"I am afraid it is too late. What time is it?"
Jack carried a neat silver watch which he consulted.
"Why, it's half-past five already! I thought it might be four. Yes, we'll have to get back."
"Let us go down to the boat first and then row up and get the fish."
This suited the two boys, and soon they were making their way back over the rocks to where Jack's craft had been left. As they came out from among the trees and bushes they saw another boat on the river, headed for Riverport.
"There is Bob Bangs again!" exclaimed Randy.
"Hullo!" yelled Jack. "Have you been fishing, too?"
"Yes," answered the big boy, and continued to row down the river.
"Have any luck?" went on Jack.
"Fine," was the short answer, and then Bob Bangs' craft drew out of hearing.
"He was in a tremendous hurry," mused Jack.
"Perhaps he didn't want us to see what he had caught," answered Randy.
"That's likely it, Randy. I don't believe he knows as much about fishing as I do—and that is little enough."
Having secured the rowboat, Randy and Jack rowed up to the fishing hole, and Randy scrambled up the rocks to secure their two strings of fish. He soon reached the shallow pool among the rocks in which they had been placed and drew up the two strings.
"Well, I declare!" he ejaculated, as he looked the fish over. Then he counted them carefully. "What can this mean?"
His string had held twelve fish and Jack's eight fish. Now three of the largest fish from each string were gone. He looked around with care, but could see nothing of the missing fish.
"Hullo! What's keeping you?" shouted Jack, from the boat.
"Come up here!" called back Randy.
"Landy! I hope the fish aren't gone!" burst out Jack, as he scrambled up the rocks and ran to where Randy was continuing the search.
The situation was soon explained and both boys hunted around in the neighborhood of the pool, thinking the fish might have gotten away in some manner. Then of a sudden Jack uttered a cry:
"Look at this, Randy!"
"What is it?"
"A key ring, with two keys on it."
"Where did you find it?"
"Here, right beside the pool."
"Then somebody has been here and taken our fish!"
"Exactly what I believe."
Jack began to examine the key ring and then he uttered another exclamation:
"Here are some initials on the ring."
"What are they?"
"I can't make out very well—they are so worn. I think the first is R."
"Let me see."
Jack passed the find over and Randy examined it.
"I can make it out," said Randy. "R. A. B."
"Robert A. Bangs!" shouted Jack.
"Bob Bangs!" murmured Randy. "Could he have been mean enough to come here and take some of our fish?"
"It certainly looks that way."
"Let us go after him and find out."
"All right. Anyway, we can make him explain how his key ring got here."
Taking what was left of the fish, the two boys hurried back to the rowboat and soon each was seated at an oar and pulling a good stroke in the direction of the town.
"He must have been watching us fish," observed Jack. "And he must have seen us place our catch in the pool."
"And took our best fish because he couldn't catch any of his own," concluded Randy. "Well, if he has my fish he has got to give them up," he added, with determination.
Rowing at a good rate of speed, it did not take the boys long to reach the town. As they moved past one dock after another they looked for Bob Bangs, but the big youth was nowhere in sight.
"I reckon he was afraid of being followed," said Jack.
"There is his boat," answered Randy, and pointed to the craft, which was tied up near an old boathouse and not at the regular Bangs dock.
While the two boys rested on their oars an old man who was lame, and who rented out boats for a living, came from the old boathouse. "Hullo, Isaac!" called out Jack. "Have you seen Bob Bangs around here?"
"Why, yes; he just went ashore," answered Isaac Martin.
"Did he have any fish?"
"Yes, a nice string—some pretty big ones, too."
"Seven or eight."
"Which way did he go?"
"Up Samson Street."
"That's the back way to his house," cried Randy. "Come on!"
"What shall we do with our fish and the boat?"
"Let Isaac take care of them."
"Want me to take care of things, eh?" said the lame boatman. "Very well, I'll do it."
The two boys were soon on the way, on a run. They knew about the route Bob Bangs would take to get home and came in sight of the big boy just as he was entering his father's garden by a rear gate.
"Stop, Bob!" called out Randy.
The big boy looked around hastily and was much chagrined to see the others so close at hand. He held his string of fish behind him.
"What do you want?" he demanded, as they came closer.
"You know well enough what we want," returned Jack. "We want our fish."
"Your fish? Who has got your fish?" blustered Bob.
"You've got them," retorted Randy, and made a snatch at the string. The big boy held fast and a regular tug of war ensued.
"See here, Bob," interposed Jack. "It won't do you any good to hang on. Those are our fish and we want them."
"Bah! How do you know they are your fish?"
"Because you took them from the pool in which we placed them."
"I did not."
"You can't prove it."
"Yes, we can."
"By this," said Jack, triumphantly, and exhibited the key ring and keys.
EXPOSING BOB BANGS
When Bob Bangs saw the key ring his face changed color.
"Where did you get that?" he demanded.
"Got it where you dropped it—at the pool where we left our fish."
"How do you know it is mine?"
"By the initials on it."
"If you don't want the key ring we'll keep it," put in Randy, quickly.
"No, you won't keep it. Give it to me."
"Then give us our fish," said Randy, quietly but firmly.
"They are not all your fish. I caught two of them."
"The two smallest, I suppose."
"No, the two largest."
"We lost six big fish and these belong to us," said Randy, and took the best fish from the string. "Bob Bangs, it was a contemptible thing to do," he added, with spirit. "I wouldn't do such a dirty thing for a thousand dollars."
"Bah! Don't talk to me, unless you want to get hurt," growled the large youth, savagely.
"I am not afraid of you, even if you are bigger than I am," said Randy, undaunted by the fighting attitude the bully had assumed.
"It certainly was a mean piece of business," came from Jack. "If you wanted some fish why didn't you ask us for them?"
"Humph! I can buy my fish if I want to."
"Then why did you take ours?" demanded Randy.
"I—er—I didn't know they belonged to you. I just saw the strings in the pool and took a few," answered the boy, lamely. "Give me my key ring."
The ring with the keys was passed over, and Randy and Jack restrung their fish. In the meantime Bob Bangs entered his father's garden, slamming the gate after him.
"You just wait—I'll get square with you!" he shouted back, and shook his fist at Randy.
"You be careful, or you'll get into trouble!" shouted back Randy, and then he and Jack walked away with their fish.
"What's the matter, Master Robert?" asked the man-of-all-work around the Bangs place, as he approached Bob from the barn.
"Oh, some fellows are getting fresh," grumbled the big youth. "But I'll fix them for it!"
"I see they took some of your fish."
"We had a dispute about the fish. Rather than take them from such a poor chap as Randy Thompson I let him keep them," said Bob, glibly. "But I am going to get square with him for his impudence," he added.
After a long hard row and fishing for over an hour, Bob Bangs had caught only two small fish and he was thoroughly disgusted with everything and everybody. He walked into the kitchen and threw the fish on the sink board.
"There, Mamie, you can clean those and fry them for my supper," he said to the servant girl.
"Oh, land sakes, Master Bob, they are very small," cried the girl. "They won't go around nohow!"
"I said you could fry them for my supper," answered Bob, coldly.
"They are hardly worth bothering with," murmured the servant girl, but the boy did not hear her, for he had passed to the next room. He went upstairs and washed up and then walked into the sitting room, where his mother reclined on a sofa, reading the latest novel of society life.
"Where is father?" he asked, abruptly.
"I do not know, Robert," answered Mrs. Bangs, without looking up from her book.
"Will he be home to supper?"
To this there was no reply.
"I say, will he be home to supper?" and the boy shoved the book aside.
"Robert, don't be rude!" cried Mrs. Bangs, in irritation. "I presume he will be home," and she resumed her novel reading.
"I want some money."
To this there was no reply. Mrs. Bangs was on the last chapter of the novel and wanted to finish it before supper was served. She did little in life but read novels, dress, and attend parties, and she took but small interest in Bob and his doings.
"I say, I want some money," repeated the boy, in a louder key.
"Robert, will you be still? Every time I try to read you come and interrupt me."
"And you never want to listen to me. You read all the time."
"No, I do not—I really read very little, I have so many things to attend to. What did you say you wanted?"
"I want some money. I haven't had a cent this week."
"Then you must ask your father. I haven't anything to give you," and again Mrs. Bangs turned to her book.
"Can't you give me a dollar?"
Again there was no answer.
"I say, can't you give me a dollar?"
"I cannot. Now go away and be quiet until supper time."
"Then give me fifty cents."
"I haven't a penny. Ask your father."
"Oh, you're a mean thing!" growled the wayward son, and stalked out of the sitting room, slamming the door after him.
"What a boy!" sighed the lady of the house. "He never considers my comfort—and after all I have done for him!" And then she turned once more to her precious novel.
It wanted half an hour to supper time and Bob, not caring to do anything else, took himself back to his room. Like his mother, he, too, loved to read. Stowed away in a trunk, he had a score or more of cheap paper-covered novels, of daring adventures among the Indians, and of alluring detective tales, books on which he had squandered many a dime. One was called "Bowery Bob, the Boy Detective of the Docks; or, Winning a Cool Million," and he wanted to finish this, to see how Bob got the million dollars. The absurdity of the stories was never noticed by him, and he thought them the finest tales ever penned.
He was deep in a chapter where the hero in rags was holding three men with pistols at bay when he heard a noise below and saw his father leaping from the family carriage. Mr. Bangs' face wore a look of great satisfaction, showing plainly that his day's business had agreed with him.
"How do you do, dad?" he said, running down to greet his parent.
"First-rate, Bob," said Mr. Bangs, with a smile. "How have things gone with you to-day?"
"Not very well."
"What's the matter?"
"You forgot to give me my spending money this week."
"I thought I gave it to you Saturday."
"That was for last week."
"I think you are mistaken, Bob. However, it doesn't matter much," went on Mr. Bangs, as he entered the house.
"Phew! He's in a fine humor to-night," thought Bob. "I'll have to strike him for more than a dollar."
"Where's your mother?" went on the gentleman.
"In the sitting room, reading. But I say, dad, what about that money?"
"Oh, do you want it right away?"
"I'd like to have it after supper."
"Can I have three dollars? I want to buy something extra this week—some things I really need."
"Ahem! Three dollars is quite a sum. I don't know of any other boy in Riverport who gets as much as three dollars in one week to spend."
"Well, but they haven't as rich a father as I have."
"Ah, quite true," nodded Mr. Bangs, with satisfaction. "I think I can safely lay claim to being the richest man in this district."
"Then I can have the three dollars?" went on Bob, anxiously.
"Yes. Here you are," and his parent brought forth a well-filled wallet and handed over three new one-dollar bills.
Bob was stowing the money away in his pocket and congratulating himself on his luck when a door opened and Mrs. Bangs appeared.
"So you are back, Amos," she said, sweetly. "It has been such a long, lonesome day without you."
"And a busy day for me," answered Amos Bangs, as he passed into the sitting room and dropped into an easy chair.
"Did you go to Springfield?"
"I did, and met Tuller and the rest. We've got that thing in our grip now."
"Yes," she said, vaguely. In reality she took no interest whatever in her husband's affairs so long as she got what money she desired.
"Yes, sir—we've got the thing just where we want it," continued Amos Bangs.
"You mean——?" his wife hesitated.
"I mean that iron works affair of course, Viola. Can't you understand at all?"
"Oh—er—yes, of course. Let me see, you were trying to get control so you said."
"Exactly, and I've got it."
"Was not that the works in which Mr. Bartlett is interested?"
"Did not he have the control?"
"Yes, but I have it now, and I am going to keep it," answered Amos Bangs, with evident satisfaction.
"Do you mean Jack Bartlett's father, dad?" questioned Bob, eagerly.
"Have you got the best of him?"
"Well, I have—ahem—carried my point and the iron works will be absorbed by the concern in Springfield."
"And Jack Bartlett's father won't like that?"
"No. In fact, I am afraid he will fight it. But he can do nothing, absolutely nothing," went on Amos Bangs. "I hold the whip hand—and I shall continue to hold it."
"I hate the Bartletts and I hope you do get the best of them."
"This will make Mrs. Bartlett take a back seat," said Mrs. Bangs, maliciously.
"Maybe you mean that seat in church," said Bob, slyly.
"Not that particularly, although it is time they went to the rear—they have had a front seat so long. Amos, we must take a front seat now."
"As you please, Viola."
"And I must have some new dresses."
"You shall have them, my dear."
"You dear, good man!" cried the fashionable wife; and then the whole family went in to supper. Bob felt particularly elated. He had gotten three dollars for spending money and he felt sure that the Bartletts, including Jack, would have to suffer.
"I wish dad could do something to injure the Thompsons," he said to himself. "But Mr. Thompson is only a carpenter. I must watch my chance and get square with Randy on my own account."
RANDY AT HOME
All unmindful of the trouble that had already come to the Bartletts, and of the trouble Bob Bangs was hatching out for him, Randy divided the mess of fish with Jack and hurried home.
"See what a fine mess I've got, mother!" he cried, as he entered the kitchen, where his mother had just started to prepare the evening meal. "Aren't they real beauties?"
"They are, Randy," answered Mrs. Thompson, and smiled brightly. "Did Jack do as well?"
"Almost as well as I did, and we divided evenly, because, you see, he furnished the boat. And, mother, I've found out where we can get a fine lot of blackberries. If you want me to, I'll go for them to-morrow."
"I wish you would, Randy. Your father loves blackberry pie and blackberry pudding."
"And so do I."
"I've got time to fry some of these fish for supper," went on Mrs. Thompson. "And we can have some more to-morrow, too. But I don't think we can use them all."
"I was thinking we might give Mrs. Gilligan a couple."
"That will be very nice. If you will, take them over at once."
Mrs. Gilligan was a poor Irishwoman who took in washing and ironing for a living. She was alone in the world and often had a struggle to make both ends meet.
"Just to look at that now!" she cried, as Randy held up the fish. "Sure an' ye air a great fisher b'y, Randy, so ye air!"
"I got so many I thought I'd bring you a couple," said our hero.
"Now that's rale kind of ye," answered Mrs. Gilligan, as she dried her hands and took the fish. "Just loike my Pat used to catch afore he was kilt on the railroad."
"I caught them this afternoon, so you can be sure they are fresh."
"I'm much obliged to ye, I am indade," said Mrs. Gilligan. She drew a long breath. "Sure an' the Lord is good to us after all. I was just afther thinkin' I had nothin' but throuble, whin in comes these iligant fish."
"Is something wrong?" asked Randy, curiously.
"It's not a great dale, yet it's enough fer a poor woman loike me. It's Mrs. Bangs' wash, so it is. Nothin' suits that lady, an' she always wants to pay less than she agreed."
"You mean Bob Bangs' mother?"
"Th' same, Randy. Oh, they are a hard-hearted family, so they are!"
"I believe you. And yet Mr. Bangs is rich."
"It's little enough I see of his money," sighed Mrs. Gilligan. "Although I do me besht wid the washin' an' ironin', so I do!"
"It's a wonder Mrs. Bangs don't make the servant do the washing and ironing."
"She did make the other wan do that same. But the new one can't iron an' won't try, so I have the work, an' the girrul gits less wages," answered the Irishwoman.
When Randy returned home he found supper almost ready. The appetizing odor of frying fish filled the air. A few minutes later Mr. Thompson came in.
Louis Thompson was a man a little past middle age, tall and thin and not unlike Randy in the general appearance of his face. He was not a strong man, and the winter before had been laid up with a severe attack of rheumatism.
"That smells good," he said, with a smile, as he kissed his wife. "I like fish."
"Randy just caught them."
"You look tired, Louis," went on Mrs. Thompson. "Was the work extra hard?"
"Not much harder than usual, Lucy, but I was working on a cellar partition and it was very damp. It brought back a bit of the rheumatism."
"That is too bad."
"Can't the boss give you something else to do—something where it isn't damp?" questioned Randy.
"I have asked him about it," answered his father. "But just at present there is nothing else in sight."
"You must take care, Louis," said Mrs. Thompson. "It will not do to risk having the rheumatism come back."
"I wish I could get something to do," said Randy, while the evening meal was in progress. "I might earn some money and it would help. But there doesn't seem to be any kind of an opening in Riverport."
"Times are rather dull," answered Mr. Thompson. "And I am afraid they will be worse before they are better."
On the following day Randy went out after blackberries. Jack went with him and the boys went up the stream in the latter's boat.
"If I can get a good mess mother is going to preserve some," said Randy.
"I like blackberry jam," answered his friend.
The two boys had brought their lunch with them, intending to remain out all day. By noon they had picked twelve quarts of berries and then sat down by the river side to eat their lunch.
"What do you say to a swim?" remarked Jack, after the meal was over.
"Just the thing!" cried our hero. "But we mustn't remain in longer than half an hour. I want to pick more berries."
They were soon in the water, which was deliciously cool and refreshing. They dove and splashed around to their hearts' content and raced from one bank to the other and back. Randy won the race by several seconds.
"I declare, Randy, you are a regular water rat!" declared Jack. "I never saw a better swimmer."
"Well, I do love the water, that is certain," answered Randy.
"And you row such a good stroke, too."
"That's because I love boats."
The half-hour at an end, our hero leaped ashore and began to don his garments, and Jack did the same. They were just finishing their toilet when a rowboat came into view, containing Bob Bangs and several other of the loud boys of Riverport.
"There is Bob Bangs again," whispered Randy.
"We'll have to watch out that he doesn't try to rob us of our berries," whispered Jack, significantly.
"Humph! Up here again, eh?" remarked the big youth, resting on his oars.
"We are," answered Randy. "I think we can come, if we please."
"Certainly—for all I care," growled Bob.
"We are picking berries, and we intend to watch them, too," put in Randy, loudly.
At this pointed remark Bob Bangs colored slightly.
"I should think you'd pick your company, Jack Bartlett," he said, coarsely.
"I do. That is why I am not with you."
"I consider myself just as good as you, Bob Bangs," said Randy, warmly. "I may not be as rich, but I never tried to steal a mess of fish from anybody."
"You shut up!" roared the big boy. And then he started to row away.
"You'll not get a chance to rob us of these berries," called out Jack after him.
"What do they mean about robbing somebody of fish?" asked one of Bob's companions.
"Oh, that was only a joke," answered the rich youth. "Just wait—I'll fix them for it!"
As soon as Bangs and his cronies had disappeared Randy and Jack went back to their berry picking. They worked steadily until five o'clock in the afternoon, and by that time had a great number of quarts to their credit.
"The folks at home will be pleased," said Jack. "My mother loves fresh berries. She says they are much better than those which are several days in the market."
"And she is right."
The boys had brought along several large and small kettles, and had left three of these down near the boat, filled with the fruit. Each walked to the shore with a kettle full of berries in his hand.
"Well, I never!" cried Jack, in dismay.
"Bob Bangs again!" murmured Randy. "Oh, don't I just wish I had him here. I'd pummel him good!"
There was good cause for our hero's anger. On the rocks lay the overturned berry kettles, the berries scattered in all directions and many of them crushed under foot.
"And look at the boat!" gasped Jack, turning to inspect the craft.
The rowboat was partly filled with water and on the seats and in the bottom a quantity of mud had been thrown. The oars were sticking in a mud bank close by.
"Does she leak?" asked our hero, with concern.
"I'll have to find out."
It was soon discovered that the craft was intact, and then they set to work to clean up the muss. This was no easy job, and the boys perspired freely, for the day was a warm one. Then Randy looked over the scattered berries.
"About one-third of them are fit to take along," he said. "The others are crushed and dirty."
"I'll tell you what I am going to do," said Jack, stoutly. "I am going to make Bob Bangs pay for dirtying my boat, and he can pay for the lost berries, too."
"But how can we prove he is guilty?"
"We'll make him own up to it. Nobody else would play such a mean trick."
The two boys were in no happy frame of mind as they rowed back to Riverport. They suspected that Bob Bangs would keep out of their sight, but just as they were landing they caught sight of him peering at them from behind a dock building.
"There he is!" cried Jack. "After him, Randy!"
"Right you are!" answered our hero, and ran after Bob Bangs with might and main. Randy was a good sprinter and although the rich youth tried to get away he was soon brought to a halt.
"Let go of me!" he roared, as Randy caught him by the collar.
"Not just yet, Bob Bangs!" returned Randy. "A fine trick you played this afternoon."
"I didn't play any trick!"
"Yes, you did."
"I didn't! Let me go!" And now Bob Bangs did his best to get away. He saw that Randy and Jack were thoroughly angry and was afraid he was in for a drubbing—or worse. He gave a jerk and then started to run. Randy put out his foot and the big youth went sprawling full length, his face violently striking the ground.
THE RESULT OF A QUARREL
If any boy was ever humiliated it was Bob Bangs. His face and hands were covered with dust and so was his elegant suit of clothing, while the skin was cut on the side of his nose.
"Now, see what you have done!" he spluttered, gazing ruefully at himself. "My suit is just about ruined!"
"And it serves you right, Bob Bangs," came warmly from Jack.
"That is what you get for trying to run away," added our hero.
"I'll have the law on you, Randy Thompson!"
"Maybe I'll have the law on you, Bob Bangs!"
"You had no right to throw me down in that fashion."
"Then why did you start to run away?"
"Because I didn't want to stay here—and you had no right to stop me."
"We wanted to know about this berry affair," said Jack. "And about the dirty boat."
"I don't know what you are talking about," answered the big boy, but his face showed his concern.
"You put mud in my boat and spilled our berries."
"Who says I did that?"
"We know you did."
"Did you see us?"
"No, but we know you did it and nobody else."
"You can't prove it," answered Bob, and now his face showed a sign of relief. He had been afraid that there had been a witness of his evil-doing.
"Perhaps we can," said Randy. "Bob Bangs, I think you are the meanest boy in Riverport!" he continued, with spirit.
"I don't care what you think, Randy Thompson. Who are you, anyway? The son of a poor carpenter. Why, you haven't got a decent suit of clothing to your back!"
"For shame, Bob!" broke in Jack. "Randy is a good fellow, even if he is poor."
"Well, if you think he is so good you can go with him. But I don't want to associate with such a low fellow," went on the big youth, as he started to brush himself off with a silk handkerchief.
"So I am a low fellow, am I?" said Randy, in a steady voice, and coming up close to Bob, who promptly began to back away.
"Ye—as, you—you are," stammered the rich youth.
"I've a good mind to knock you down for saying it, Bob Bangs. I am not as low as you."
"I would never do the low things you have done. It was a mean, contemptible trick that you played on Jack and me. By right you ought to be made to scrub out the boat and pay for the berries you spoiled."
"Bah! I won't touch the boat, and I won't pay a cent."
"Then you admit that you are guilty?"
"I admit that I had some fun, at your expense, yes," answered Bob Bangs. "You can't do anything to me, though, for you can't prove it against me."
"That means, if you were brought up into court, you would lie about it," said Randy.
"Humph! You needn't get so personal, Randy Thompson."
"For two pins, do you know what I would do, Bob Bangs?"
"I'd give you a good thrashing," and Randy pulled up his sleeves, as if he meant to begin operations at once.
"No! no! Don't you—you dare to touch me!" gasped the rich boy, in alarm. "If you do, I'll—I'll have the law on you!"
"And we'll have the law on you."
Bob Bangs was more alarmed than ever. He saw that Randy was ready to pitch into him on the instant. He looked around, saw an opening, and darted away at his best speed.
"Let him go—the big coward," called out Jack, for Randy had started after the rich boy. "We can settle with him another time."
"What a mean chap!" cried Randy. "I never saw his equal, never!"
Bob Bangs ran a distance of several rods. Then, seeing a clod of dirt lying in the road, he picked it up and hurled it at the boys. He was not a good thrower, but as luck would have it the clod struck Randy on the shoulder, some of the dirt spattering up into his ear.
"Ha! ha! That's the time you got it!" sang out the rich boy, gleefully.
"And this is the time you are going to get it," returned Randy, and made a dash after him. Seeing this, Jack followed after the pair.
Bob Bangs could run and fear lent speed to his flying feet. But he was no match for Randy, who had on more than one occasion won a running match amongst his schoolfellows. Bob started for home, several blocks away, but just before he reached his gate Randy came near to him, caught him by the arm and flung him over on his side. Then, to hold him down, our hero seated himself on top of the rich boy, who began to bellow lustily.
"Get off of me!"
"I will not!"
"You are squeezing the wind out of me!"
"What right had you to throw that chunk of dirt at me?"
"I—er—I was only fooling."
"Maybe I am only fooling, too."
"You are breaking my ribs! Oh, let up, I say!"
"Are you sorry for what you did?" demanded Randy.
To this Bob Bangs made no reply.
"I see you've got him," said Jack, running up at that instant.
"Yes, and I am going to give it to him good," answered Randy.
"Let up! Help, somebody! Help!" roared Bob, badly frightened. He began to kick and struggle, but Randy held him down and as a consequence he was covered with dust and dirt from head to foot.
In the midst of the melee a carriage came along the roadway. It contained Mrs. Bangs and the man-of-all-work, who was driving.
"Mercy on us! What does this mean?" burst from the fashionable lady's lips. "Can that be Robert?"
"Help! help!" roared the rich youth, more lustily than ever.
"It certainly is Robert," went on Mrs. Bangs. "John, stop the carriage. You rude boy, let my son alone!" she went on, in her shrill, hard voice.
"Hullo, here is Mrs. Bangs," remarked Jack, looking around and discovering the new arrival.
For the instant Randy did not see the rich woman and continued to hold down Bob, who struggled violently, sending up a cloud of dust in the road. Then he noticed the carriage and looked up, and his face fell.
"You scamp! Leave my boy alone!" screamed Mrs. Bangs. "Oh, John, perhaps you had better run for a policeman!" she added, as Randy let go his hold and arose.
"You had better not, Mrs. Bangs," said Jack. "Bob deserves what he is getting."
"I do not believe it! It is disgraceful to throw him down in the road like this," stormed the fashionable lady.
"He hit Randy with a chunk of dirt."
"I—I didn't do nothing!" howled Bob, as he got up. He was too ruffled to think of his bad grammar.
"And that elegant suit is about ruined," went on Mrs. Bangs. "I never heard of such doings before. Boy," she went on, looking at Randy, "you ought to be locked up!"
"It is Bob ought to be locked up," retorted Randy. "He started this trouble; I didn't."
"I do not believe it. My son is a gentleman."
"I didn't do a thing," put in the rich boy, feeling safe, now that his mother and the hired man were on the scene. "They pitched into me for nothing at all."
"Bob knows better than that," said Jack.
"Yesterday he tried to steal some fish we caught, and to-day he mussed up Jack's boat and ruined some berries that both of us had picked," explained Randy. "I took him to task about it and then he threw the mud at me. Then I chased him and caught him, as you saw."
"Preposterous! My boy would not steal!" said Mrs. Bangs, tartly. She looked meaningly at Jack. "I presume you and your family are very bitter against us now," she added, significantly.
"Bitter against you?" said Jack, puzzled.
"Yes—because of that iron works affair."
"I don't know anything about that, Mrs. Bangs."
"Oh, then you haven't heard yet." The fashionable woman was nonplussed. "Never mind. You must leave Robert alone."
"Ain't you going to get that policeman and lock them up?" asked the son, anxiously.
"If I am locked up, you'll be locked up, too," said Randy. "And the charge against you will be stealing as well as malicious mischief."
"Yes, and we'll prove our case," added Jack. "Bob doesn't know what witnesses we have."
At this announcement Bob Bangs' face grew pale.
"Yo—you can't prove anything," he faltered.
"You don't know about that," said Randy, taking his cue from Jack.
"I will look into this affair later—just now I have no time," said Mrs. Bangs, after an awkward pause. "Robert, you had better go into the house and clean yourself up. John, you can drive on." And then, while the fashionable woman was driven into her grounds, her son lost no time in sneaking off into the house. As he entered the door he turned and shook his fist at our hero and Jack.
"Jack, I don't think we have heard the last of this," remarked Randy, as he and his companion started away.
"Perhaps not, but I think we have the best of it," answered Jack.
"I don't know about that. Mrs. Bangs is a very high-strung woman and thinks a good deal of Bob."
"I'd like to know what she meant about the iron works matter," went on Jack, with a troubled look on his face. "I hope Mr. Bangs hasn't got the best of father in that deal."
"You had better ask your father when you get home."
The two lads hurried back to the boat and placed the craft where it belonged. Then the berries were divided, and each started for his home little dreaming of the trouble that was in store for both of them.
THE IRON WORKS AFFAIR
When Jack arrived at home he took the berries around to the kitchen and then hurried upstairs to the bathroom, to wash and fix up for supper. He was in the midst of his ablutions when he heard his father come in and go to the library. An animated talk between his two parents followed.
"Something unusual is up," thought Jack, and went below as soon as he was fixed up.
He found his father sitting near the library table, his head resting on his hand. His face looked careworn. Mrs. Bartlett sat by an open window clasping her hands tightly. Their earnest talk came to a sudden end as Jack entered.
"Good-evening, father and mother," said the boy and then halted. "Maybe I was interrupting you," he added.
"Jack may as well know," said Mrs. Bartlett, looking meaningly at her husband.
"I suppose so," answered Mr. Bartlett, and gave a long sigh.
"Know what?" asked Jack.
"Your father has had trouble at the iron works," answered his mother.
"What kind of trouble?"
"It is the Bangs affair," answered Mr. Bartlett. "You know a little about that already. Well, Amos Bangs has forced me into a corner."
"What do you mean by that, father?"
"He has gained control of the company and is going to consolidate with the Springfield concern."
"Will that harm you much?"
"A great deal, I am afraid, Jack. In the past I have known all that was going on. Now I will have to rely on Amos Bangs—and I do not care to do that."
"Don't you think he is honest?"
"Privately, I do not, although I should not care to say so in public. He and his friends at Springfield are sharpers. They will squeeze what they can out of the new concern, and I am afraid I shall be left out in the cold."
"Well, I shouldn't trust Mr. Bangs myself. He and his son are of a stripe, and I know only too well now what Bob is."
"Have you had trouble with Bob?" questioned Mrs. Bartlett, quickly.
"Yes," answered Jack, and gave the particulars. "How Bob will crow over me now!" he went on, ruefully.
"This will make Bangs harder on me than ever," remarked Mr. Bartlett.
"Oh, I trust not, father!" cried Jack. "I am sure you have trouble enough already!"
"The Bangses are a hard family to get along with," said Mrs. Bartlett. "I have heard that from several who work for them."
"The men at the office are sorry to see Amos Bangs in control," said Mr. Bartlett. "They know he will drive them more than I have ever driven them, and he will never raise their wages."
"Are you going to leave the company's office, father?"
"Yes. I am no longer an officer, only a stockholder."
"The company ought to give you a position."
"Bangs said I could be a timekeeper, at fifteen dollars per week."
"How mean! And what will his salary be?"
"I don't know yet—probably a hundred and fifty per week—seven or eight thousand per year."
"And you've been getting sixty dollars per week, haven't you?"
"Then I'd go elsewhere."
"That is what I shall do—if I can find any opening. What I am worried about mostly is the capital I have in the iron works, fifteen thousand dollars. I am afraid Bangs will, sooner or later, wipe me out, and do it in such a way that I cannot sue him to advantage."
"It's an outrage!"
"The trouble is, I trusted him too much from the start. He has proved to be a snake in the grass."
"And Bob is exactly like him," said Jack.
The family talked the matter over all during the supper hour and for some time later. The prospect ahead was a dark one and Mrs. Bartlett sighed deeply.
"If you cannot get an opening elsewhere I do not know what we are to do," said she to her husband.
"I'll get something," he replied, bravely. "And remember, I have a thousand dollars in cash in the bank."
"A thousand dollars won't last long, Philip, after once you begin to use it up."
"That is true."
"Have you anything definite in view?"
"Not exactly. I am going to write to my friend Mason, in Albany. He may be able to get me something to do at the iron works there. He is in charge."
"Well, I hope it is better than the place Amos Bangs offered you."
"There is only one trouble," went on Mr. Bartlett. "If I get work at Albany we will have to move to that city."
"Well, we can do that."
"Yes, but I hate to go away from Riverport. I wanted to watch Bangs."
"You might go to Albany every Monday and come home Saturday night, at least for a time."
"Yes, I might do that," answered Philip Bartlett.
On the following morning he went down to the iron works as usual. As early as it was he found Amos Bangs ahead of him, and sorting out some papers at one of the desks.
"Morning," said Amos Bangs, curtly.
"Good-morning," answered Mr. Bartlett. "Mr. Bangs, what are you doing at this desk?"
"Sorting out things."
"Do you not know that this is my private desk?"
"Is it? I thought it belonged to the iron company," answered Amos Bangs with a sneer.
"The desk does belong to the company, but at present it contains my private papers as well as some papers of the company."
"Well, it is going to be my desk after this, I'll thank you to take your personal things away."
"You seem to be in a hurry to get me out."
"I want to get to work here. Things have dragged long enough. I am going to make them hum."
"I am glad to hear it," answered Philip Bartlett, pointedly. "I presume we can look for big dividends on our stock next year."
"Well—er—I don't know about that. We have got to make improvements and they will cost money."
"You didn't want any improvements when I was in charge."
"That was a different thing. The old concern was a small-fry affair. We are going to make the new concern something worth while," answered Amos Bangs, loftily.
"I hope you do—for my sake as well as for the sake of the other stockholders. But what salaries are the new officers to have?"
"That is to be decided later."
"I trust all the profits are not eaten up by the salaries."
"You cannot expect talented men—like myself, for instance—to work for low salaries."
"You used to be willing to work for fifty dollars a week."
"Those days are past. But I cannot waste time talking now. Clean out the desk and turn it over to me," concluded Amos Bangs, and walked away.
With a heavy heart Philip Bartlett set about the task before him. He was much attached to the iron works and hated to leave it. Presently his brow grew troubled.
"Mr. Bangs!" he called.
"What do you want now?"
"Did you see anything of some papers with a broad rubber band around them?"
"Didn't see anything but what is there."
"I had some private papers. They seem to be gone."
"I didn't take them," answered Amos Bangs, coldly.
"It is queer where they can be," went on Philip Bartlett.
"Well, I haven't got them."
Philip Bartlett hunted high and low for the missing documents, but without success. Then he cleaned out the desk, put his personal things in a package, said good-by to his former employees, and quit the office.
"I am well rid of him," said Amos Bangs, to himself. "And I am glad I got hold of those private contracts. Now I can make a deal with Shaster and turn the work over to the Springfield concern—and make some money!"
MORE TROUBLES FOR RANDY
Two days passed quietly, and Randy did not see or hear anything more of Bob Bangs. Then he learned through Jack that Mrs. Bangs had gone off on a summer trip, taking her son with her.
"I hear there are great changes at the iron works," said Randy, to his friend. "Mr. Bangs, they say, is in charge."
"He is, and father is out of it," answered Jack, bitterly. "That is what Mrs. Bangs meant when she said I must be bitter against the family."
"Is your father out of it entirely, Jack?"
"Yes, so far as holding a position is concerned. He still has his stock. But he is afraid that won't be worth much, if Amos Bangs runs the concern."
"What is your father going to do?"
"He doesn't know yet. He is trying to connect with some other iron works."
"I hope he strikes something good."
"So do I, Randy."
"I wish I could get something to do, too," went on Randy.
"You mean during the summer?"
"Yes, and maybe later, too."
"Why, isn't your father working?"
"Not to-day. He has been working in a damp cellar and that brought on his old complaint, rheumatism. He suffers something awful with it. He ought to have a long rest."
"He certainly ought not to work in a cellar."
"He has already told his boss he couldn't go at it again," answered Randy.
"Have you had a doctor?"
"Yes, Doctor Case came this morning."
"What does he say?"
"He says rheumatism is hard to cure and that my father will have to take care of himself," answered Randy. "But I must go on now," he added. "I must get some things for mother at the store."
What Randy said about his father was true. Louis Thompson was suffering very much. He rested on a couch in the sitting room of the cottage, and his wife did what she could to relieve his pain.
Several days passed and the rheumatism, instead of growing better, became worse, so that neither Mrs. Thompson nor Randy knew what to do for the sufferer. Then Mr. Thompson's side began to draw up, and in haste a specialist from the city was called in. He gave some relief, but said it would be a long time before the sufferer would be able to go to work again.
"You must keep off your left leg," said the specialist.
A few days after that Louis Thompson tried to walk. But the pain was so great he could not stand on the rheumatic limb. He sank on his couch with a groan.
"I cannot do it," he gasped.
"Then do not try," answered his wife.
"But I must get to work, Lucy. I cannot afford to be idle."
"Never mind, Louis; we will get along somehow."
"How much did that specialist charge?"
"And what was Doctor Case's bill?"
"Sixty dollars! And we had only ninety dollars in the bank! That leaves us only thirty dollars."
To this Mrs. Thompson did not answer. She had used up nearly ten dollars for medicines, but did not wish to worry her suffering husband by mentioning it.
"If I don't go to work we'll all starve to death!" continued Louis Thompson.
"We'll manage somehow," answered the wife, bravely.
Nevertheless, she was much discouraged, and that evening, when her husband was asleep, she and Randy talked the matter over as they sat on the porch in the darkness.
"Mother," said Randy, earnestly, "I don't want you to feel troubled. You have labored so long for me that it is now my turn. I only want something to do."
"My dear child," said the mother, "I do not need to be assured of your willingness. But I am sorry that you should be compelled to give up your vacation and maybe your schooling."
"Giving up schooling will not be necessary. I can study in the evenings. I am wondering what I can find to do."
"I know so little about such things, Randy, that we must consult someone who is better qualified to give advice in the matter—your Uncle Peter, for instance."
At this Randy gave a sigh.
"I don't know Uncle Peter. He never comes here."
"That is true," answered Mrs. Thompson, with some hesitation. "But you know he is a business man and has a great deal to attend to. Besides, he has married a lady who is exceedingly fashionable, and I suppose he does not care to bring her to visit such unfashionable folks as we are."
"Then," said Randy, indignantly, "I don't want to trouble him with any of my applications. If he doesn't think us good enough to visit we won't force ourselves upon him."
"My dear boy, you are too excitable. It may be that it is only his business engagements that have kept him away from us. Besides, you can go to him only for advice; it is quite different from asking assistance."
Mother and son discussed the situation for fully an hour and at last, in the absence of other plans, it was decided that Randy should go to his uncle the next day and make known his wants. Mr. Thompson was told, early in the morning, and said Randy could do as he thought best.
"But don't expect too much from your Uncle Peter," said the sick man.
Peter Thompson was an elder brother to Randy's father. Early in life he had entered a counting room and ever since had been engaged in mercantile pursuits. At the age of twenty-eight he had married a dashing lady, who was more noted for her fashionable pretensions than for any attractive qualities of the heart. She was now at the head of a very showy establishment, far more pretentious than that over which Mrs. Bangs presided. She knew little about her husband's relations and cared still less.
The town of Riverport was twenty miles distant from Deep Haven, where Peter Thompson resided with his family. A boat ran daily between these places and several others, but Randy did not wish to spend the necessary fare, and so borrowed a bicycle from Jack and made the trip by way of the river road, a safe if not very comfortable highway.
Randy had been to Deep Haven several times in years gone by, but, strange as it may seem, had never gone near his uncle's residence. But he knew where the house was located—a fine brick affair, with a swell front—and leaning his bicycle against a tree, he mounted the stone steps and rang the bell.
"What's wanted?" demanded the servant who answered the summons, and she looked Randy over in a supercilious manner, not at all impressed by the modest manner in which he was attired.
"Is Uncle Peter at home?" asked Randy, politely.
"Who's Uncle Peter?"
"Mr. Peter Thompson?"
"No, he isn't."
"Where is he?"
"At his store, I expect."
"Is Mrs. Thompson at home?"
"I don't know. I'll see. Who shall I say wants to see her?"
Randy was left standing in the elegantly furnished hallway while the servant departed. He could not help but contrast such elegance with his own modest home.
"Come into the drawing room," said the servant, briefly, on returning, and ushered him into the finest apartment he had ever entered.
Here he was kept waiting for fully quarter of an hour. Then a showily dressed woman swept into the room with a majestic air and fixed a cold stare upon our hero.
"Are you my aunt?" he asked, somewhat disconcerted by his chilling reception.
"Really, I couldn't say—not having seen you before," she answered.
"My name is Randy Thompson. I am the son of Louis Thompson, of Riverport."
"Ah, I see."
The woman said no more, but seemed to await developments. Randy was greatly embarrassed. His aunt's coldness repelled him, and he easily saw that he was not a welcome visitor. A touch of pride came to him and he resolved that he would be as unsociable as his relative.
"What can he want of me?" thought the woman.
As Randy said nothing more she grew tired of the stillness and drew herself up once more.
"You must excuse me this morning," she said. "I am particularly engaged. I suppose you know where your uncle's store is. You will probably find him there." And then she rang for the servant to show our hero to the door. He was glad to get out into the open air once more.
"So that is Aunt Grace," he mused. "Well, I don't know as I shall ever wish to call upon her again. She is as bad as an iceberg for freezing a fellow. No wonder she and mother have never become friends."
RANDY AND HIS UNCLE PETER
From his uncle's home Randy rode on his bicycle to Peter Thompson's store—a fairly large concern, the largest, in fact, in Deep Haven. He found his uncle behind a desk in the rear, busy over some accounts. For several minutes he paid no attention to his visitor. Then he stuck his pen behind his ear and gave Randy a sharp look.
"How do you do, Uncle Peter?" said the youth.
"Why—er—who is this?" stammered Peter Thompson. "I don't seem to quite know you."
"I am Randy Thompson, your nephew."
"Oh, yes, my younger brother Louis' son, I believe."
"I remember you now." Peter Thompson held out a flabby and cold hand. "Come to town on business, I suppose."
"In a way, yes, sir. Father is down with rheumatism."
"Hum! Didn't take proper care of himself, I suppose."
"He had to work in a cellar and that put him in bed."
"And you have come to ask help, I suppose." Peter Thompson's face dropped quickly. "I am sorry, but my family expenses are very large, and trade is dull. If I were able——"
"You are mistaken," said Randy, a flush mounting to his brow. "I do not come for assistance. I am old enough to work, if I only knew what to do. Mother told me to come to you for advice."
Peter Thompson looked relieved when he understood that Randy's visit meant no demand upon his purse, and he regarded the youth more favorably than he had done.
"Ah, that's well," he said, rubbing his flabby hands together. "I like your independence. Now, let me see." He scratched his head. "Do you know anything about horses?"
"No, sir; but perhaps I could learn."
"The livery-stable keeper wants a boy, but he must know all about horses."
"How much would he pay a week?"
"Two dollars at the start."
"That would not be enough for me."
"I might get you in some store in the city," continued Peter Thompson. "Would you like that?"
"If it paid, yes."
"It would pay but little the first year. But you would gain a valuable experience."
"I cannot afford that, Uncle Peter. I must earn something at once, to support our family."
"Then I don't know what can be done," said the storekeeper, with a shrug of his shoulders. "There are very few things that boys of your age can do, and it is so easy to obtain boys that people are not willing to pay much in wages."
Randy looked crestfallen and his uncle embarrassed. The merchant feared that he might be compelled by the world's opinion to aid his brother and his family. But suddenly an idea struck him.
"Do you know anything about farming?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir," said Randy; "a little."
"I ask for this reason," pursued Mr. Thompson. "When your grandfather died he left to me a small farm in Riverport. It is not very good and has been used mostly as a pasture. I have been so occupied with other things that I could not look after it. Perhaps you may know something of it."
"Yes, sir, I do. It is about half a mile from our house, and is called the twelve-acre lot. But I didn't know it belonged to you."
"It does. What I was going to say is that, although I am unable to give you such assistance as I should like, I will, if you wish it, give you the use of that lot, and the little cottage on it, rent-free so long as you care to use it. Perhaps you can put it to some use. Anyway, you can use the cottage."
Randy's face lighted up, much to his uncle's satisfaction. The land was not extra good and the cottage all but tumbled down, yet it was better than nothing. They could move out of the cottage in which they were now located, and thus save the monthly rent, which was eight dollars. Besides that, Randy felt that he could do something with the garden, even though it was rather late in the season. Where they now lived there was little room to grow vegetables.
"You are sure you don't want to use the place, Uncle Peter?" he asked.
"Not at all. You can use it as long as you please."
"Maybe you would like to sell it."
"Ahem! If you wish to buy it you can make an offer after you are on the place. I once offered it to a man for two hundred dollars, but he would not take me up."
"Then you will sell it for two hundred dollars?"
"I will sell it to you, or rather your father, for a hundred and fifty dollars."
"I'll remember that, sir. It may be that we will like the place so much we shall want to buy—if we can raise the money."
"You can pay off the amount at the rate of fifty dollars per year if you wish."
"Thank you. You are kind and I appreciate it," and Randy meant what he said.
Peter Thompson looked at the clock.
"I must go to dinner now. Will you dine with me?"
Had his uncle been alone Randy might have accepted the offer, but he remembered the reception his aunt had given him and so declined.
"I think I had better get back to Riverport," he said. "I will tell mother and father about the twelve-acre lot and see what they have to say about it."
"Would you mind giving me a slip of paper so that we can prove we have a right to occupy the place?" pursued Randy. "Some folks may try to dispute our right. I know one man who pastures cows there."
"He has no right to do so. Here, I will give you a paper in due form."
Whatever his other shortcomings, Peter Thompson was not a slipshod business man. He drew up a paper in due form, stating that his brother could occupy the little farm for five years, rent-free, and if he wished to do so could at any time in said five years buy the little farm for one hundred and fifty dollars, payable at the rate of fifty dollars per year, without interest.
"And now good-by and good luck to you," said he as he handed the paper to Randy. "Some day, if I can get the time, I may call upon you. But I rarely go away from home."
Randy shook hands and left, and in a minute more was riding home on the bicycle.
"Well, I think I've gained something," he thought, as he sped along. "Anyway, we will have a roof over our heads and that is something. To be sure, the cottage is a poor one, but poor folks can't have everything as they want it."
When the boy arrived home he found his father had had another bad turn but was now resting easier. Without delay he told of what had happened at Deep Haven.
"Your aunt is a Tartar," said Louis Thompson. "I never liked her, and that is why I and your Uncle Peter have drifted apart. I thought he had sold the twelve-acre lot to Jerry Borden, who pastures his cows there."
"Jerry Borden will have to get out—that is, if we take possession," said Randy. "Mother, what do you think of it?"
"Is the cottage usable? I have not seen it for a year or more."
"It will have to be fixed up some. But I am sure I can do the work, with father's tools."
"It will save the rent money."
"And I can plant a garden, even if it is late. And we can keep some chickens, and then, after everything is in shape, I can again look for outside work."
"Randy's idea is a good one," answered the boy's father. "Our month will be up here next week. I'll notify the owner at once about leaving."
The next morning Randy went over to the twelve-acre farm, a corner of which sloped down to the river. He had passed it a hundred times before, but it was with an entirely different feeling that he surveyed it now.
It was pasture land, naturally good, but much neglected. A great many stones needed to be removed and the fences wanted propping up and here and there a new rail. The house, which faced a little side road, was a story and a half in height, with two rooms below and two chambers above. There was a well that needed fixing and also a cistern. Around the cottage the weeds grew high, and one of the windows was out and a door was missing.
"I can fix this place up, I am sure of it," said the boy to himself.
He was making a mental note of what was to be done when he heard a noise on the road and saw a farmer approaching, driving a dozen cows before him. It was Jerry Borden, the man who had been using the pasture lot without paying for it.
"Hullo! What air you a-doin' here?" asked Jerry Borden, looking at Randy in some surprise.
"We are going to move over here, Mr. Borden," answered Randy, calmly.
"Move over here!" ejaculated the farmer.
"In this air tumble-down cottage?"
"I am going to fix it up some."
"Well, I vow! It ain't fit to live in!"
"It will be."
"An' the land ain't wuth shucks."
"It seems to be good enough for the cows."
At this Jerry Borden's face fell a little.
"If you air a-goin' to move in, I guess thet means I'm to move out," he ventured.
"It does, unless——" Randy paused, struck by a sudden idea.
"Unless what?" asked the farmer, eagerly. He wanted to use the lot very much, for he was short of pasturing on his own farm.
"Unless we can come to some sort of an agreement for milk and butter. Of course I can't let you use the whole lot, but you might use part of it."
"Did the owner say you could use the place?"
"Yes, we have it down in writing. We are to use it for five years and then we can buy it if we wish."
"I see." The farmer scratched his head. "Well, I dunno. Maybe we could let ye have butter an' milk. One thing is certain, I've got to have pasturin'."
"We could fence off part of the lot in some way and you could use that."
"Besides that, I'll want some plowing done. I may have to hire you for that," pursued Randy.
"I must say I like your spunk, Randy. I shan't charge ye a cent fer plowin'."
After that the farmer and our hero talked matters over for half an hour, and the farmer told the youth what might be planted to advantage even so late in the season. Then Randy went home, feeling that the family was going to make a good move.
THE NEW HOME
The next few days were busy ones for Mrs. Thompson and for Randy. The landlord of the cottage in which they lived was notified that they were going to move, and then the woman set to work to get ready to vacate, while Randy went over to the other place to put the house in condition for occupancy.
While Randy was at work Jack came to see him, and insisted upon lending a helping hand. Randy had brought over some of his father's tools and also some nails, and he purchased at the lumber yard a few boards and other pieces he thought he needed.
When he once got at it, it was astonishing how well our hero used the tools, making several repairs that would have done credit to a regular carpenter. The broken window was replaced, and the missing door found and rehung, and several clapboards nailed fast. Then Randy mended the porch, and put a score of shingles on the roof. This done, the chimney was cleaned out and also the cistern, and the well was also overhauled. In the meantime Jack pulled out a lot of weeds and trained a wild honeysuckle over the porch. At the end of four days the place looked quite well.
"It's a hundred per cent. better than it was," declared Jack. "It didn't look like anything before."
"I'll get a can of paint to-morrow and paint the door and the window frames," said Randy, and this was done. He also whitewashed the kitchen, and kalsomined the other rooms, so that the interior of the cottage was sweet and clean.
When Mrs. Thompson saw the change which had been wrought she was delighted.
"I declare, it looks as well, if not better, than the cottage we are in," she cried. "And the outlook toward the river is ever so much nicer."
"Just wait until I have the garden in shape," said Randy. "You won't know the spot."
"What a pity we did not know of this place before."
"Mother, I think we ought to buy it if we can."
"Perhaps we shall, Randy, before the five years are up."
At length came the day to move. A local truckman who knew Mr. Thompson well moved them for nothing.
"You can do some odd jobs for me some time," said the truckman to Louis Thompson.
"Thank you, I will—when I am able," answered the sufferer.
A good deal of the pain had left Mr. Thompson, but he was weak, and to start to regular work was out of the question. Another friend took him to his new cottage in a carriage. He gazed at the old place in wonder.
"Well, it certainly is improved!" he ejaculated. "We shall get along here very well."
The moving was done early in the morning and by nightfall Randy and his mother had the cottage in tolerable order. The stove was set up and found to draw good, and the water from the well tasted fine.
"Now there is one thing certain," said Randy, "Mother, come what may, we shall have a roof over our heads."
"Yes, my son, and I am grateful for it," answered Mrs. Thompson.
"Uncle Peter may be a hard man to get along with, but he has certainly helped us."
The next two weeks were busy ones for Randy. Jerry Borden was true to his promise and not only did some plowing for the Thompsons but also helped Randy to put up a new fence, partly of stone and partly of rails. It was agreed that Borden should have the use of part of the little farm for pasturing, and in return was to give the Thompsons two quarts of milk a day and two pounds of butter per week, and also a dozen fresh eggs a week while the hens were laying.
"That will certainly help us out wonderfully," said Mrs. Thompson. "Butter, eggs, and milk are quite an item of expense."
"And that is not all," said Randy. "I am going to help Mr. Borden with his haying soon and he is going to pay us in early vegetables."
The haying time was already at hand, and Randy soon pitched in with a will, much to his neighbor's satisfaction.
One day Jack came to bring good news. His father had secured a position with an iron works at Albany, on the Hudson River.
"It will pay him a fair salary," said Jack.
"I am glad to hear it," answered Randy. "What will your family do, remain here or move to Albany?"
"We are going to remain here for the present, but, if the place suits father after he has been there a while, then we'll move."
"Have you learned anything more about the Bangses?"
"Mrs. Bangs and Bob are on a summer vacation."
"Yes, I know that. I meant Mr. Bangs."
"He is in full charge at the iron works here and drawing a salary of eight thousand dollars a year. Father says he will run the works into the ground so that the stock won't be worth a cent."
"Can't your father do anything?"
"Not yet. But he is going to watch things. There was some trouble over a contract and he is trying to get to the bottom of that," continued Jack.
When Randy went to work for Farmer Borden he came into contact with the farmer's son Sammy, a tall, overgrown lad of fourteen, with a freckled face and a shock of red hair. Sammy hated to work, and his father and mother had to fairly drive him to get anything out of him.
"City folks don't work like farmers," remarked Sammy to Randy. "They jest lay off an' take it easy."
"How do you know that?" asked our hero, in quiet amusement.
"'Cos I once read a paper of the sports in the city."
"Some rich folks don't work, Sammy. But all the others work as hard as we do."
"I don't believe it," said Sammy, stoutly. "Wish I was a city lad. Oh, wouldn't I jest have the bang-up time, though!"
"Sammy Borden!" cried his mother, shrilly. "You get to work, an' be quick about it."
"I'm tired," answered the freckled-faced lad.
"Tired? Lazy, you mean! Git to work, or I'll have your paw give you a dressin' down!"
"Drat the luck!" muttered Sammy, as he took up his pitchfork. "I wish I was born in the city!"
"Come on, Sammy," said Randy. "The work has got to be done, so don't think about it, but do it."
"Huh! Work is easy to you, Randy Thompson! But it comes hard on me!" And Sammy heaved a ponderous sigh.
The haying was in full blast early in July and Randy worked early and late. He wanted to get through, so that he might go at his own garden. Sammy dragged worse than ever, and finally confided to our hero that he wanted to go to the city over the Fourth.
"Have you asked your folks yet?" asked Randy.
"No, but I'm a-goin' to," answered Sammy.
"Well, if you go, I hope you have a good time," said our hero. "I'd like to see a Fourth of July in the city myself. I've heard they make a good deal of noise, but I shouldn't mind that."
"Gosh! I love shootin'," said Sammy.
"Aren't you afraid you might get lost?" pursued Randy.
"Lost!" snorted Sammy. "Not much! Why, you can't lose me in the woods, much less in the city."
"The city and the woods are two different places."
"I don't care. I'd know what I was doin'."
"It costs money to go to the city."
"I want to go to Springfield."
"Have you any money saved up?"
To this Sammy did not answer. Then Mr. Borden came along.
"Sammy, get to work!" he called out. "Don't let Randy do everything."
"I was workin'," grumbled the son, as he started in again. "You can't expect a feller like me to pitch hay all day long."
"I have to work all day," retorted his father.
"It ain't fair nohow."
"If you want to eat you'll have to work."
Sammy pitched in, but grumbled a good deal to himself. Soon his mother called him and he went off to the house.
"That lad is gettin' lazier every day," said Jerry Borden. "I declare, I don't know what to do with him."
"Maybe he needs a vacation," suggested our hero.
"Well, he can't have one until the hayin' is done," declared the farmer.
SAMMY'S FOURTH OF JULY
The next day Sammy sat on a bench on the cottage stoop, apparently very intent on a perusal of the Farmer's Almanac, but it was evident his thoughts were somewhere else.
"What in nater is the boy a-doin'?" asked his mother, looking up from a pile of stockings she was mending. "If he ain't twisting up thet Almanac as if 'twasn't any more than a piece of brown paper. What are you thinking about, Sammy?"
"Thursday is Fourth o' July," answered her son.
"Well, what if it is? I'm sure I'm willing."
"They are going to have great doings down to Springfield," added Sammy.
"Is that so? I hope they enjoy themselves. But it ain't anything to me as I know on."
"I want to go down an' see the celebration," said Sammy, mustering up his courage to give utterance to so daring a proposition.
"Want to see the Fourth o' July in Springfield?" ejaculated his mother. "Is the boy crazy? Ain't it the Fourth o' July here as well as there, I'd like to know?"
"Well, I suppose it is, but I never was in Springfield, an' I want to go. They've got a lot o' shows there, an' I'm bound to see some of 'em."
"Sammy," said his mother, solemnly, "it would be the ruination of you; you'd git shot, or something wuss. You ain't nuthin' but a boy, an' couldn't be trusted nohow."
"Ain't I fourteen, an' ain't I 'most six feet high?" answered back Sammy, defiantly. "An' didn't Dick Slade, who is only thirteen, go down last Fourth an' have a smashin' good time an' not git hurt?"
"But you ain't got no experience, Sammy."
"I've got enough to go to Springfield."
"No, you had better give up the notion."
"Now, mother, don't say that!" pleaded the son.
"But I do say it."
"Well, then I'm going to—to run away! I'll go to sea an' be a sailor, or sumthin'!" burst out Sammy, recklessly. "I'm sick o' workin' every single day!"
"Stop talking in that dreadful way, Sammy!" said Mrs. Borden, anxiously.
"Then you ask paw to let me go."
"'Twon't do no good."
"Yes, it will. You ask him, won't you?" pleaded the son.
At last Mrs. Borden consented and spoke to her husband about it during the dinner hour. Jerry Borden shook his head.
"He can't go—it's sheer foolishness," he said.
"If you don't let him go I'm afraid he will run away," said the wife. "He has his heart set on going." Sammy was out of the room at the time, so he could not hear the talk.
At first Mr. Borden would not listen, but at last he gave in, although he added grimly that he thought running away would do Sammy a world of good.
"He'd be mighty glad to sneak back afore a week was up," he said.
When Sammy realized that he was really to go to the city he was wild with delight, and rushed down into the hayfield to tell Randy of his plans.
"I'm a-goin' to have a highfalutin' time," he said. "Just you wait until I come back an' tell about it."
"I hope you do have a good time," answered our hero, "and don't get hurt."
"There won't nothin' happen to me," answered Sammy, confidently.
Early on the morning of Independence Day Sammy stood at the door of the farmhouse arrayed in his Sunday best. His folks were there to see him off.
"My son," said Mr. Borden, "don't ye be wasteful o' your money, an' don't git in no scrapes."
"An' remember, Sammy, to keep all the Commandments," added his mother, as she kissed him tenderly.
Soon he was off, down the side road towards the highway, where the stage passed that ran to the railroad station. His walk took him by the Thompson cottage. Randy was at home and fixing up the garden.