TWO BOYS AND A FORTUNE
Or, The Tyler Will
MATTHEW WHITE, JR., 1907
Among all my books, this one will always occupy a particularly warm spot in my heart; for listen, reader, and I will let you into a little secret. Riddle Creek is really Ridley, and is a true-enough stream, flowing through one of the most charming regions in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The railroad trestle which plays such an important part in the first chapter forms a picturesque feature of the landscape, in full view of a home where I was wont to spend many a joyous holiday-time and which I had in mind whenever I mentioned the Pellery.
Again, the odd little house on Seventh Street, Philadelphia, described in Chapter XXVII, actually existed until pulled down some years since to make room for a big manufacturing plant. I used to visit there every time I went to the Quaker City, and all the furnishings mentioned stand out vividly in my recollection to this day, even to the guitar off in one corner. I never played Fish Pond there, but I have eaten some of the best dinners I ever tasted in that famous kitchen below stairs, which had to serve for dining room as well. That kitchen and the great cat, who used to sun himself in the shop window, loom large in my memories of boyhood.
Matthew White, Jr.
New York City.
Jan. 5, 1907.
THE MAN ON THE BRIDGE
"Look there! I believe that man is actually going to try to cross the trestle."
Roy Pell pulled his sister Eva quickly toward him as he spoke, so that she could look up between the trees to the Burdock side of the railway bridge almost directly above their heads.
"Why, it's Mr. Tyler!" exclaimed Jess, who had a better view from where she sat on the log that spanned Riddle Creek. "Oh, Roy, something's sure to happen to him! He's awfully feeble."
"And there's a train almost due," added Eva. "What can he be thinking of to attempt such a thing?"
"Oh!" and Jess gave a shrill scream. "He's fallen!"
Roy said never a word. He quickly passed his fishing-line to Eva, ran nimbly across the tree trunk to the Burdock side of the creek, and then started to climb the steep bank. The girls sat there and watched him breathlessly, now and then darting a look higher up at the spot on the trestle where the figure that had dropped still lay across the ties, as if too badly hurt to rise.
The two Pell girls and their twin brothers, Rex and Roy, had gone down to sit on the log in search of coolness on this blazing hot July afternoon. Rex had been giving vent to his disgust because he wasn't able to accept the invitation to join a jolly party of friends for a trip to Lake George and down the St. Lawrence. Cause why? Lack of funds.
"You ought to have known you couldn't go when Scott asked you, Rex," Roy had told him. "You would need at least fifty dollars for the outing. And that sum will clothe you for almost a year. And clothes with you, Rex, ought to be of sufficient importance to be considered."
"I suppose I might as well go and tell Scott about it and have it over with," Rex had replied, creasing his handsome forehead into a frown. "I dare say he'll be calling me 'Can't Have It Pell' pretty soon. It was only two months ago I asked for a bicycle and didn't get it, and there was the new pair of skates I wanted last winter."
"Don't be late for tea," Eva called out after him as he made his way to the shore.
She kept her eyes on the trim figure till it was hidden by the trees which grew thick along the road that led up to town.
"Well, if anybody in this world ought to have money it is that good looking brother of ours," remarked Jess with a sigh. "He'd appreciate it so thoroughly. I don't wonder he's crabbed this afternoon. Just think of the chance for a good time he's had to let slip just for lack of a little money."
"Fifty dollars isn't a little money, Jess," returned Roy, casting his line.
"I know it isn't to us, but it is to most of the people we know, Scott Bowman for instance. Do you suppose we shall ever be rich, Roy?"
"We are rich now; at least you and Eva are, in my opinion."
"We rich?" Eva nearly slipped from her position on the log at the statement.
"Why, yes; haven't you both contented dispositions, and isn't that worth a small fortune?"
"But why have you left yourself out, Roy?" Eva wanted to know. "Surely you who never grumble, are satisfied with things."
"No, I'm not." A flash came into the boy's eyes that made him really handsome for the moment. "I'm chafing inwardly all the while at having to be idle this way when it seems there ought to be so much I could do to help along."
"But you are getting ready to do it as soon as you finish school," rejoined his sister. "And you must have a vacation, you know. Besides, think how much you do to help Sydney."
"Oh, I only do a little copying for him now and then."
He was going to add more, but at this point he caught that glimpse of the man on the trestle which brought about the interruption in the talk already described.
Roy soon emerged from the line of shade in his climb up the embankment and the scorching afternoon sun beat down on him mercilessly. But he did not cease his exertions to reach the top as quickly as possible. He knew that a train for the city would be along very soon now; he remembered the curve just beyond the bridge; the engineer could not see whether there was an obstruction in the way, until he should be too close on it to stop.
Then he thought of Mr. Tyler, and of how nobody liked him, with all his money, which he hoarded like a miser. He was probably crossing the bridge now to take the train for the city from Marley, and save the additional five cents he might have to pay if he boarded it at Burdock, which was much nearer his home.
But he was human, he was an old man; he was helpless now, doubtless overcome by the heat. And there was nobody about but Roy to prevent what might be a tragedy.
On he toiled. The loose dirt slid out from under his feet and rattled down the hillside behind him. The perspiration poured from his face in streams. What a contrast this was, he thought, to sitting there over the creek placidly fishing!
He had gained the top now and, scarcely pausing to take a long breath, he ran out over the ties till he reached Mr. Tyler's prostrate form. He had fallen fortunately not very far from the beginning of the trestle, but he was quite unconscious and could not help himself. Roy must carry him away from his dangerous position.
He bent to his task, which was not such an arduous one as might be supposed. Mr. Tyler was little more than a bag of bones, weighing not as much as did Roy himself. The latter picked him up as carefully as he could, not daring to look down lest he should grow dizzy. Then he began to bear his burden back to terra firma.
He had almost reached the ground when the old man stirred and opened his eyes. He started to struggle, but Roy looked down at him and spoke sternly.
"Keep quiet, Mr. Tyler," he said, "or you will have us both over the trestle."
The miser shuddered, but he made no reply and kept perfectly still till Roy placed him on the grass in the shade of a horse chestnut tree. The boy threw himself down beside him, and began to fan himself with his straw hat. The next minute, with a shrill whistle, the train rushed by them.
"You saved my life, Roy Pell," said Mr. Tyler after the skurrying dust raised from the ballast had settled into place. "You are a brave boy."
Roy made no reply. He was still very hot and he was thinking that his whole adventure was very much like a scene in a book.
"I ought to say 'Oh, it is nothing,' I suppose," he reflected with a half smile. "But then that wouldn't be the truth. From the way I feel now it was a good deal."
"I've missed that train, I suppose," Mr. Tyler went on.
At this Roy wanted to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous. And yet it was quite characteristic of this singular old man. But young Pell mopped his face vigorously with his handkerchief to hide his mirth and then said, rising to his feet:
"Do you feel all right, Mr. Tyler?"
"Oh, I guess so," was the reply, and the old man started to get up too.
But he immediately fell back again and a frightened look came into his face.
IN THE MISER'S HOME
"Have you hurt yourself, Mr. Tyler?" asked Roy anxiously. "You didn't break a limb when you fell, did you?"
"No, no, it is here," and the old man put his hand up to his head.
"The sun was too hot for you," went on Roy. "You haven't got over it yet."
"I am afraid I shall never get over it, Roy Pell." The miser looked at him in a steady way that would have frightened some boys. "And I don't want to die yet, not till I have made my will. I must have a lawyer. Where is Sydney Pell, that brother of yours."
"He isn't my brother. He's a boy that father adopted when he was very young, but he's better than a good many brothers. And he's a good lawyer, too. Would you like to see him. He'll be back on the five-thirty train."
"Yes, I should like to see him if it won't be too late. What time is it now? You haven't got a watch, have you? Look at mine and tell me."
"Quarter past five, and now you ought to be taken home right away, and have a doctor."
"You think I am very bad then?" Again the frightened look came into the old man's face.
"No, of course not. Lots of people have to call the doctor when they're not going to die."
"Don't speak of dying. I'm afraid to die. See, I don't mind telling you so. And I ought to be. I haven't done very much good in the world. There isn't anybody I can think of will be sorry to have me go. That isn't the way to live, Roy Pell. You ought to be happy, so happy, because you are young, and have your life before you to make it the way it should be made."
"You have life before you, too, Mr. Tyler. You are not so very old. You're not much more than seventy."
"I'm seventy-two. But come, let me see if I can get up with your help. I want you to take me home, so you can go for Sydney. He's a good boy, you say, one I can trust?" The old man looked in Roy's face closely as the latter bent over him.
"Sydney is the best fellow that ever lived," replied Roy soberly. "He's been a staff to my mother ever since father died, and has almost taken his place to us children."
"Yes, yes. I've heard that what your father did for him years ago was like bread cast upon the waters that's coming back after many days. Let me see, how old are you?"
"Fifteen. I tell you what, Mr. Tyler. The girls are down under the bridge. Wait a minute till I call down to them to send Syd over as soon as he comes. Then I'll go home with you and needn't leave you."
"All right. You're very good to me, Roy Pell." The miser sank back on the grass, while Roy hurried to the edge of the bluff and making a trumpet of his hands, called down:
"Yes, are you all right, Roy?" came back the answer in Eva's tones.
"All O. K., but Mr. Tyler's a little done up. I'm going home with him. And he wants you to send Syd over as soon as he gets back. It's some business matter, quite important, and we may both be late for tea. Don't wait. Do you understand?"
"Yes, all right. We'll go to meet Syd now. Shall we send the doctor, too?"
Roy thought a minute.
"Yes. I think you'd better," he called down.
"I told them to send the doctor to your house," he reported to Mr. Tyler. He half expected the latter to raise a protest, but he didn't.
"All right," he said feebly. "He'll do for one of the witnesses. Now."
Roy bent down so that the old man might lean on his shoulder. He put one arm about his back to steady him, and thus supported he was able to move slowly along the cinder path beside the track.
"What did you attempt to walk across the trestle for, Mr. Tyler?" asked Roy.
"I made up my mind suddenly to go to town," was the answer. "There wasn't time to go around by the turnpike. I thought I could get across before the train came. I've seen boys go over it."
"But you're not a boy," rejoined Roy, with a smile.
"No. I'm not a boy," and Roy could feel a shudder pass through the arm that was resting on his shoulder.
Mr. Tyler lived in a house not far from the Burdock station. An old woman did the cooking for him and went home at night. For the rest he dwelt almost like a hermit, and so far as any one knew he had not a relative in the world. But the report had gone out as it always does in such cases, that he was very rich, and now his desire to see a lawyer and make a will convinced Roy that for once rumor must be right.
"I wonder how much he's got and to whom he'll leave it?" he asked himself, but now they were within sight of the little house and the old man leaned so heavily upon him, that all his attention was centered on getting him safely to the end of their journey.
By the time this was accomplished Mr. Tyler was so completely exhausted that he dropped down on the first chair they reached.
"After you are rested a bit," said Roy, "I'll help you to get to bed."
"No, no," protested the old man; "so many people die in their beds. Go and tell Ann to get a little more for dinner to-night. You and Sydney must stay and eat it with me. It will take quite a time to have my will drawn up. You'll find her in the kitchen."
The woman was not much surprised when Roy told her of the condition in which her master had come home.
"It's what I've been expecting every day," she said. "He doesn't eat enough to keep a bird alive. I'm amazed to think he should ask you to stop to dinner. It's little enough you'll get, Master Roy, but I'll do my best."
The house was a bare looking place, furnished only with the merest necessities. No pictures were on the walls, no books on the tables; Roy wondered what the old man did to pass the time here by himself. There was not even a sofa for him to lie upon. He asked about this when he returned to the front room.
"Then you'd better come in and lie on the outside of your bed if you won't get in it," he suggested.
To this the older man acceded and allowed Roy to assist him to the adjoining apartment where he slept.
"No," he murmured, "I haven't wasted much on myself, you see. That will leave still more for those who come after me. What would you do with $500,000 if you had it, Roy Pell?"
The question came so suddenly and in such contrasted tones to the mumble in which the miser had heretofore been speaking that for the moment Roy was too startled to make reply.
"No, I'm not raving, Roy Pell," went on the old man. "There's a possibility—" he checked himself quickly— "what would you do with all that money if you had it?"
"I'd give it to my mother," answered Roy.
"Good boy, of course. I didn't think of that. You're a minor, and you're not selfish. You'd rather she would have it, eh, than that it should be held by her in trust for you? But if you got it, you'd promise to see that it was spent, and not hoarded as I have hoarded mine? You'd promise that wouldn't you?"
Roy by this time began to think that the partial sunstroke had completely unhinged Mr. Tyler's brain, already a little out of plumb.
"Oh, yes," he laughed. "There's no danger of our hoarding money. There are too many things to spend it on for that."
"Then you're squeezed a little down at your place, eh?"
"Oh, we can get along," returned Roy hastily; "but we can't do much branching out. My mother has only the income from father's insurance, and then there's the place which we own, with the taxes to pay."
The old man now relapsed into silence. He seemed to be thinking, deeply. Suddenly he started up and exclaimed:
"It must be nearly time for Sydney to be here. Won't you go outside and watch for him?"
Roy was very glad to leave the miser. He realized that perhaps it was wrong for him to feel that way, but then, believing him to be a little unbalanced, it was but natural that he should be sensible of some constraint in his presence.
"I wonder if be has got $500,000 put away somewhere?" he asked himself when he reached the little portico. "He talked exactly as if he was going to give it to me. I suppose for what I did for him on the bridge. That would be just like a story episode, so much like one that there's no chance of its coming true. But what would Rex say if it did? Ah, here comes Syd."
Roy left the porch and hurried out to the gate to meet the fellow who had been nearer and dearer to him than a brother as far back as he could remember.
"Poor old chap," he said as they met and he turned around, slipping his arm within that of the tall young lawyer, "it was a shame to make you walk all that distance in the hot sun when you must be tired out from your day in town. But there's a job at the end of the walk."
"And a cheerful brother, too," added the other. "Poor Rex! I saw him over at the station. He takes it terribly to heart that he cannot go off with the Bowmans. I wish I were rich, if only for you boys' sakes. But what's this heroic deed I hear of your doing for old Mr. Tyler? Positively, Roy, I'm proud of you."
"Oh, the train didn't come along for a good five minutes after I'd got him off the trestle. You see that takes a good deal of the 'heroic rescue' business out of the thing. But come on inside. He's been quite anxious to see you. I've made him lie down, for I think he's in a very bad way."
MR. TYLER'S WILL
"Is that you, Sydney Pell?" called out Mr. Tyler as soon as he heard footsteps in the hallway.
"Yes, Mr. Tyler, What can I do for you?" and Sydney followed Roy into the bedroom.
"You can make my will," replied the old man promptly. "That doesn't mean that I am going to die right away," he added hastily, "but I've had a warning. Why, I may have time to make two or three wills before I give up the ship."
He laughed hoarsely and started to get up. But he was weaker than he supposed, and fell back on the bed with a little gasp just as he had done out by the trestle.
"Don't exert yourself too much, Mr. Tyler," said Sydney. "I can fix the thing up for you while you are lying right here. I think I saw a bottle of ink and some paper in the other room. Roy can help me bring in that table that stands there, and then I can take down whatever you wish and you can sign it. But you will want witnesses."
"There's Ann, she can be one," responded the old man.
"And I told the girls to send a doctor up here. He can be another," put in Roy. Then he added, when all was arranged: "I suppose I had better go out."
"Yes, you can go out and watch for the doctor," said Sydney. "Now then," he went on, turning to Mr. Tyler when they were alone, and after he had written out the regulation formal preamble, "I am ready."
The miser said nothing in reply for a minute or two. He kept interlocking his wasted fingers with one another, glancing now and then out of the window, where he could see Roy pacing back and forth in front of the cottage. Finally he murmured so low that Sydney was obliged to bend forward to catch the words:
"Would you be surprised to hear that I had a vast amount of money in the deposit companies in Philadelphia?"
"No, Mr. Tyler," replied Sydney. "It has always been supposed that you were a man of wealth."
"I am, I am," muttered the miser. "I have something like half a million. And yet what good has it done me? I have hoarded it just for the sake of hoarding. It began to come to me when I was quite young. I was surprised. Some property was wanted by the city. They paid me well for it. I invested what I got and doubled it, I kept on making money till I loved it for itself alone and could not bear to part with it even on the chance of making more. So I left it all to draw interest except what little it takes to support me in the poor way in which I live."
He paused and Sydney adjudged it proper to inquire.
"Then you have no relatives, no one dependent on you?"
"I have outlived them all," was the reply. "There was a boy, though, who was once in my employ and whom I came to think a good deal of. But he grew up and went into stocks and tried to bear the market against me. I never forgave Maurice Darley for that. And yet I loved him once. I brought him up, out of the gutter, as it were, and there was a time when he loved me. There is another brother in your family whom I see sometimes and who reminds me of him."
"Reginald— Rex, as we call him— you mean?"
"Yes, but perhaps he would not have done for me what Roy did this afternoon. You have heard of it. He risked his life for mine. He will make a good man. I am sure of it. And he is unselfish. To make him happy you must make others happy around him. Yes, I will do it. Quick, write down that I leave all my fortune unreservedly, to— what is his full name?"
"Whose full name?" Sydney had dropped his pen and sat staring at Mr. Tyler as if in a daze.
"Why your brother— Roy Pell's."
"Royal Fillmore Pell," Sydney repeated the name mechanically, still too amazed at the inference he must draw from the question to be really conscious of what he was saying.
"Thank you. A fine name it is, and fitted to a splendid boy. Then write— but no. I had determined not to leave it to him. What is his mother's name? She must have it all outright. Then it can be used at once in the way to please Roy best. Now Mrs. Pell's full name?"
"Jessica Fillmore Pell. I suppose, as a lawyer, I ought not to express any surprise at what you are doing, but you can see how close home it comes to me, Mr. Tyler. You know the relation in which I stand to this family, with whom I am connected by no ties of blood, but who have been so good to me."
"And you have deserved it, young man. I am not leaving money to a family of whom I know nothing. Have you got that: all my fortune unreservedly to Jessica Fillmore Pell?"
"Yes, Mr. Tyler."
"Roy knows something of this, and if people think it strange or hint that I am out of my head to leave my money in this way, you can tell them what he did for me this afternoon. That ought to satisfy them. Now I want to tell you where my money is invested so that you can get at it easily, for I want you, Sydney, to be one of my executors, and I will take Dr. Martin for the other. Here he comes now. We will continue this business presently."
Roy came in with the doctor; a cheery man, whom everybody in the neighborhood liked.
"Doctor," began Mr. Tyler, before the physician could say anything, "I want you to witness my will. Roy, run out to the kitchen and get Ann to come in here."
"Ann," said Roy, appearing in the rear regions, "Mr. Tyler wants you to come out and witness his will."
"Is the poor man dying then?" exclaimed the woman, looking frightened.
"Oh, no, he only—"
"Never mind bothering Ann about that now," said the doctor presenting himself at this moment Roy returned to the bedroom with the physician, where he found that Mr. Tyler had decided he would have Sydney for a witness in place of Ann.
"I'd rather have a man," he explained. "I forgot that he could do it just as well as not."
Then the instrument was duly signed and witnessed.
"I am perfectly sane, you can declare, can't you, Dr. Martin?" asked the miser when the thing was done. "I don't want any mistake to be made about it."
"You need have no fear on that score,"
"Dinner's ready, Mr. Tyler," announced Ann, making her appearance at this point.
"All right, you boys go out and eat it," said the old man. "The doctor wants to see me I suppose. Ann can bring me a little broth in here afterwards. And about signing that, Sydney, I want to add a clause leaving something to Ann. I forgot about her."
Silently the two Pells went out into the dining room, and in almost silence they ate the broth which the housekeeper placed before them. Then when she had gone out Sydney said:
"You know how much Mr. Tyler is worth, Roy, do you?"
"He told me something like $500,000. I didn't know whether to believe it or not That's a great sum of money, Sydney. I feel awfully queer about the whole thing. Does it seem all right to you that he should leave it all to mother just because of the little thing I did for him this afternoon? I don't want to seem to feel that she oughtn't to have it. But the whole thing seems so odd."
"Not nearly so queer as a great many wills that are made every day," rejoined Sydney. "But don't worry over it, Roy," he added with a laugh. "You look as if you had been convicted of some crime. Remember you haven't got the money yet, and may not have it for a great many years to come."
"It isn't my money, Syd. It's to be left to mother."
"Well, if it hadn't been for you she wouldn't have it. But by the way, you had better get home as soon as you can. I think mother is inclined to worry about you from what Jess said. I can stay with the old man as long as it is necessary."
"And I shan't say anything about that will, Syd. I'd rather you wouldn't either, just yet."
"No, it is best to keep it as quiet as we can. It seems strange that the old man should have talked so freely about it as he did."
The meal was soon finished, and the two starting to enter the bedroom, met the doctor in the doorway.
"He's in a bad way," he whispered to Sydney. "I shall come back again this evening. Come, Roy, are you going down? I'll take you along with me in the carriage."
"Yes, you'd better go, Roy," urged Sydney. "You look worn out. Tell mother I'll stay here as long as I'm wanted."
"Good-by, Mr. Tyler," said Roy, stepping into the bedroom and extending his hand to the old man.
"Good-by, Roy Pell. You have made me think better of my kind to-day. In fact I think you have made a changed man of me. Would you— would you mind coming up to see me to-morrow?"
"No, of course I wouldn't mind. I'll come. I hope you'll be better in the morning. Good-night," and Roy went off with the doctor.
"Well, Roy," said the latter, as they drove away, "you are to be congratulated. You have brought your family into a nice little inheritance if all our miserly old friend says is true."
"Perhaps it isn't," returned Roy, "so please don't congratulate me or say anything about it just yet."
Roy was so tired when he got home that he did not give very spirited answers to the questions his family showered upon him. He went to bed very shortly and was asleep before Rex came to take his place beside him.
All in the household were locked in slumber when Sydney let himself in with his key about eleven. He did not retire. He went into the library, got out some law books, and sitting down at the table, appeared as if about to do some work. But he did not pick up the pen. He sat there, his head sunk on his chest, with a look of misery on his face that was pitiable to see.
THE TWIN BROTHERS
The Pells breakfasted early so that Sydney might catch the 7:30 express for the city. On the morning following the events narrated in the preceding chapter the entire family were gathered at the table with the exception of Rex, who was invariably late, and Sydney himself.
"It's very strange," remarked Mrs. Pell "He is always on time. He can barely catch his train now. I wish you, Roy, would run up to his room and see what is the matter. He may be ill."
Roy soon ascended the two flights of stairs to the apartment with the dormer window that had always been Syd's. The door was open and the room was empty. The bed had been slept in, but the suit Syd had worn the day before was not about. He had evidently dressed and gone.
"I wonder if he can be up at Mr. Tyler's?" thought Roy.
He returned to the dining room with his report.
"It is very odd," remarked Mrs. Pell. "It is not like Sydney to go off in that way, but he will explain when he comes home to-night. He may have been obliged to go to town at seven on business for Mr. Tyler."
"That's so; what did the old gentleman want with Syd," asked Jessie, turning to Roy. "You were so sleepy when you came home last night that you didn't half satisfy our curiosity."
"He wanted him to make his will," answered Roy.
"And did he?" went on Jess.
"Yes. I say, mother, hadn't I better go and stir up Rex? I'm afraid he's gone off to sleep again."
"There, he's coming now. I hear his step on the stairs, so you just sit still and answer my questions. I'm not half through yet," and Jess checked off on her fingers the two queries to which she had already had responses. "Now then, is he as rich as we all thought him?"
"Richer. Good afternoon to you, Rex. Better late than never. I'm going to keep you company, by taking a second cup of coffee. Mother, may I, please?"
"Royal Pell, what is the matter with you?" exclaimed Jess. "You haven't been like the same fellow since you climbed up to that trestle yesterday afternoon. You seem to be trying to keep something back. Don't you notice it, mother?"
"I have," put in Rex, before Mrs. Pell could speak. "I couldn't get a word out of him before he went to sleep last night. One would think he'd had a trouble like mine to bear," and Rex sighed with the air of a martyr.
Roy glanced over at him quickly. What would this luxury loving brother of his say if he only knew! But Roy did not dare tell yet. Mr. Tyler might live for years, and have ample opportunity to change his mind about his will. Yes, it was better to keep the matter to himself as long as he could.
"What's queer about me?" he said now.
"Why, you're giving such short answers to our questions about the old miser," returned Jess promptly. "As a rule you'd tell us all we wanted to know without our having to draw it out as if we were pulling teeth."
"Well, what is it you want to know?"
"Oh, all about your experience over at Mr. Tyler's. The people up in the town will hear about your being there and will expect us to know all the details. It is quite an event for a queer old character like the Burdock miser to make a will."
"But people when they make their wills don't usually tell everybody in the house what they put into them. It's a sort of confidential matter, don't you understand?"
"I'll wager you know all about it, Roy," broke in Rex suddenly, dropping the biscuit he was buttering and staring at his brother fixedly for a moment "I shouldn't be surprised if the old fellow had made you his heir for what you did for him."
"Well, if he did, "answered Roy with a smile, "it wouldn't enable you to take that trip to Canada, as he isn't dead yet and may live to be ninety."
"He's just the kind that do hang on," remarked Jess. "People that nobody seems to care about generally do."
"That reminds me, mother," added Rex, "if I don't go on this trip there'll be a lot of money saved. Can't I have some of it spent for a new tennis suit? I need one badly."
Mrs. Pell smiled, a little sadly though.
"My dear boy," she rejoined, "there is your patent method of manufacturing money again. You conceive a desire for something very expensive, then when you give that up and select something much cheaper, you imagine that you have saved more than enough to pay for it."
"It's a thundering grind to be decently poor any way." Rex pushed back his chair suddenly, his brow clouded with a frown as it had been the afternoon before down on the log.
"'Decently poor!' What do you mean by that, Rex?" asked Eva.
"Oh, to have the taste and wish for nice things and the privilege of going with nice people who own them, and yet not be able to have them yourself. I sometimes wish I was like black Pete. He doesn't know any better than to be contented if he makes a dollar or two a week."
"Oh, Reggie, Reggie!" murmured Mrs. Pell sadly.
This one of her boys caused her more anxiety than all the other children combined. He was so proud, so aspiring, and yet he had not half the ability of Roy, who was rather overshadowed by the other's dashing, winning manner. For Rex could be charming when he so minded.
He went out on the side piazza now and began to shy strawberries at two of the puppies. The berries had just been picked and left by the cook on the window sill for the girls to hull.
"Rex," exclaimed Roy severely, coming out upon him suddenly. "Aren't you ashamed to use those berries in that way?"
Roy hated waste above all things.
Rex checked the toss he was about to make, and transferred the berry to his mouth instead.
"Has your majesty any objections to that disposition of the fruit?" he asked with an assumption of the courtliness that became him so well.
"Well, it's a legitimate disposition at any rate," returned Roy. Then he went out to the barn to feed the chickens and look after the cow, for the Pells kept no hired man. The boys attended to the kitchen garden— at least Roy did most of it, and there had been no horses kept by the family since shortly after Mr. Pell's death.
This was another of Rex's trials.
"Think of living in the country without a horse!" he would exclaim. "And then to have the stable on the place into the bargain! It's enough to make the horse we haven't got laugh."
To be sure he had plenty of rides. The Bowmans who came down to Marley for the summer, were very fond of him, and nearly every day during the summer Scott took him out in his cart.
But Rex sighed to return this hospitality. All of his friends were glad to come down to the Pellery, as Rex called it, for Mrs. Pell was a great favorite and the young people were lively and bright. Rex fretted, however, because he had no "attractions" to offer them.
He was feeling particularly gloomy this morning. Having exhausted himself in regretting the good time he would lose in not being able to go with the Bowmans, he had taken to lamenting his condition here in Marley during vacation with Scott away. He was not so fond of reading as was Roy, and without plenty of congenial society, he was apt to find that time hung heavy on his hands.
Scott had gone to Philadelphia this morning to make some purchases for his journey. He would not he back till afternoon. Rex had not yet planned what to do with himself in the meantime.
"Where are you going?" he called out presently, when he saw Roy walking down toward the gate.
"Over to Mr. Tyler's to see how he is. Want to come?"
"I believe I do," answered Rex slowly. "Hold on a minute till I get my cap."
Roy was rather surprised that his brother should wish to go. He wondered just how Mr. Tyler would like his bringing him. Then he remembered what the miser had said about Rex reminding him somewhat of Maurice Darley and thought perhaps he might be glad to see him on this account.
It was cooler than it had been the previous day. The country about Marley and Burdock was beautiful, extremely rolling and rich in vegetation, so the walk was a pleasant one.
"Say, did Mr. Tyler really have Syd make his will last night?" asked Rex as they were crossing the covered bridge over the creek.
"Yes," answered Roy.
"Did he have much to leave?" went on Rex, stooping down as they emerged on the road again, to pluck a tall blade of grass which he began to munch between his white teeth.
"About half a million." Roy thought he might as well tell this. He knew that if he tried to evade the question his brother would be apt to think he was keeping something back.
"What?" Rex stopped stock still in the road to utter the exclamation. "That old bag of bones worth half a million dollars! Nonsense."
"I think it's more likely he should be worth that amount," returned Roy, "than the Bowmans, for instance, who seem to spend their income right up to the handle. You know everybody has always thought Mr. Tyler had money."
"I know they have, but such a sum as that!"
Rex walked on again, knitting his brows in thought. There was silence between the boys while they ascended the hill on the opposite side of the creek. Then as they reached the top, Rex was about to ask another question when Roy clutched his arm suddenly.
"Look there," he cried. "Isn't that undertaker Green's wagon in front of the house? Mr. Tyler must be dead!"
BREAKING THE NEWS
"Great Caesar, Roy! What's come over you?"
Rex was staring in amazement at his brother, who had turned quite white at the sight of the undertaker's wagon standing in front of the miser's home. He had halted and gone off to one side of the road to lean against a tree, where he stood now, mopping his face with his handkerchief.
"I hadn't any idea he would die so soon," he said. "It seems like an awful shock, although I do remember that Dr. Martin said he was in a pretty bad way. And he asked me to come and see him to-day; I mean Mr. Tyler did. I wonder when he died."
"What luck for his heirs," remarked Rex.
"Don't!" cried Roy, starting forward as if to place his hand over his brother's mouth. "You don't know what you're saying."
"Well, I suppose it was a little rough when the old man's scarcely cold perhaps. I say, aren't you going on? We can find out just when he died, you know."
Mechanically Roy followed his brother, his eyes still fixed on that black wagon. He could not realize it yet. Mr. Tyler dead so soon after making that will which left Mrs. Pell all his money. No more poverty for them. The stable need no longer be empty and—
Roy checked these thoughts with a half suppressed exclamation of disgust. It seemed sacrilegious to be speculating in this fashion on the gain from the death of the old man who had been so fond of life, for all he had made such poor use of it.
They were now close enough to the cottage to see that the doctor's carriage stood there just behind the ominous vehicle belonging to Mr. Green. The doctor himself was coming out of the house.
Seeing the boys he halted till they came up with him.
"Oh, doctor, when did it happen?" asked Roy.
"Last night about ten," was the answer. "Didn't Sydney tell you?"
"No, I haven't seen Syd since I left him here yesterday. Is he here now?"
"No. He is very busy in town seeing about the arrangements there. You know he is one of the executors. Things take queer turns in this world of ours, don't they? You little thought at this time yesterday morning that before twenty-four hours had passed you would be the means of bringing a great fortune into the family. But good-by. I must hurry off to do what I can for the living now."
"There is nothing that I can do for him, is there?" Roy stepped apart from his brother and closer to the doctor to ask the question.
"No, my boy," was the answer. "Nothing now. You have obeyed his last request of you. It is not your fault that you are too late."
The physician drove off, leaving the two boys standing in the road in front of the silent cottage, for the undertaker was carrying on his work noiselessly.
"Roy," said Rex suddenly, placing a hand on each of his brother's shoulders, and looking him squarely in the face, "what did Dr. Martin mean by what he said just now about your being the means of bringing a fortune into the family?"
"Don't— don't ask anything about it just here. Come, let's hurry off toward home. I'll tell you on the way."
Roy slipped his arm through his brother's and led him off down the hill.
"Now then," said Rex impatiently when they had reached the Marley turnpike again, "you must tell me. Did Mr. Tyler leave you any money for what you did for him yesterday?"
"No," replied Roy, in a kind of burst, "but he left his whole fortune to mother."
Rex did not stop and throw up his hands as Roy had half expected he would do. He came closer to his brother and suddenly passed one arm about his neck as they walked on together and drew him close to him.
"Oh, Roy," he said, "we owe all this to you."
Then he walked off to the side of the road and dropped down on the grass. Roy came over to take his place beside him.
"I didn't want to say anything about it before," he explained. "It might have been years before we came into the money. And now it may not be nearly so much as I said. We only have old Mr. Tyler's word for it, but both Syd and Dr. Martin seemed to think he was telling the truth."
"Does mother know?" asked Rex in a low voice. He seemed to be quite changed since he had heard the wonderful news. His manner had become quiet, subdued, more like Roy's.
"No, nobody knows but you, and Syd and Dr. Martin."
"But you will tell mother as soon as you get back?"
"Yes, I suppose I had better."
"I can't realize it yet, Roy. Half a million! That's five hundred thousand dollars. And now we live on an income of about two thousand!"
Rex brought his eyes down from the sky where he had been allowing them to soar, and fixed them on his last summer's tan shoes. They were whole yet, but had lost their freshness. He could have new ones now, he reflected, without waiting for these old ones to wear out.
"How did he come to do it, Roy?" he went on, "Hasn't he any relatives, or anybody of his own?"
"I don't know. Syd can tell you more about it than I can. Come, we had better be getting home."
The boys rose and resumed their walk. Presently Rex remarked:
"When shall we get hold of the money, do you suppose, Roy?"
"I don't know. Don't talk about it in that way. It seems awful."
"Why, Roy, one would think you wished we hadn't got it. What makes you act so queer about the thing?"
"Because the thing itself seems queer, I suppose."
"You are not sorry about it, are you? You almost act so."
"Oh, no, I'm not sorry, but I can't seem to realize it yet."
"Well, I can, now I've had a little chance to get used to it. I can realize that it means a new tennis suit for me, unlimited pairs of shoes, horses and carriages and perhaps my trip to Canada with the Bowmans."
"Rex, don't go on in that strain with the man still unburied. If you only knew how it sounds."
Reginald looked a little abashed, and as they reached a fork in the road just then, announced that he was going up in the town to see his friend Charlie Minturn.
"Don't tell him about this," Roy begged.
"What do you take me for?" returned Rex in his most dignified manner. He strode on up the hill, his head thrown back, his chin the least bit elevated in the air.
"I'm afraid for Reggie," murmured Roy as he kept on toward the Pellery. "Poverty didn't suit him at all, but it seems to me riches are going to suit him too well."
The girls were hulling the strawberries on the side porch when he reached the house.
"Where's mother?" he asked as he came up and sat down at their feet.
"Gone to market," replied Eva.
"Where have you and Rex been?" inquired Jess. "I saw you crossing the bridge together. I thought the Crawfords were away. There's nobody else you'd be likely to go and see over in Burdock."
"There's Mr. Tyler," replied Roy. "He asked me to go up and see him to-day, but I was too late. He's dead."
"Dead! Oh, Roy!"
Both girls uttered the exclamation. Death almost always horrifies. They had Roy tell them in detail all about the talk he had had with the miser the previous afternoon. But he said nothing about the will. He thought his mother ought to know first.
"There come mother and Rex now!" exclaimed Jess presently.
"I suppose he's told her," thought Roy.
This was the case. There was a flush in Mrs. Pell's cheeks as she came up, and Rex exclaimed as soon as he was within speaking distance: "Mother knows. Have you told the girls yet, Roy?"
A look of annoyance crossed Mrs. Pell's face, but before either she or Roy could say anything, Jess sprang to her feet, nearly upsetting the bowl of strawberries in the act.
"Told you what? There's been an air of mystery about you ever since you left the creek yesterday afternoon."
"Of course there has," exclaimed Rex exuberantly. "And it's something worth being mysterious about, eh, brub? What should you say, sisters mine, if I should tell you that the magic wand of fortune has been waved over the Pellery, which will transform yonder sober fowls into gallant steeds, these homely pups into expensive hounds of the hunt, and—"
Rex always knew he had gone too far when his mother spoke like that. He ceased abruptly and dashed into the house, as if to cut himself off from temptation to transgress further. The next moment they heard him whistling a comic opera air up in his room.
"Mother, you tell me what all this means, won't you?" This from Jess in almost a desperate tone.
"Yes, you may as well all know now," said Mrs. Pell, sinking into a chair. "I find that half of the town seems to be aware of it already."
"It! It! Quick, mother. It isn't something awful, is it?"
"No, not awful for us my dears. It is just this. Your brother Roy touched old Mr. Tyler's heart by what he did for him yesterday, and in the will he made last night he left all his fortune, about half a million, to me."
Both girls sat there as if stricken dumb, staring at their mother as she told them the wonderful news.
REX GOES TO TOWN
"I'm very sorry, indeed, this came out now. It seems unfeeling to talk about it while that poor old man's body is above ground, and then the amount of the fortune he possessed may be grossly exaggerated."
This was Mrs. Pell's summary of the matter, delivered several times during that afternoon. The girls took the thing very quietly.
"I am so glad on Syd's account," Eva said though more than once. "He has always worked so hard for us."
Jess seemed dazed by the possibility of the new order of things, while Roy was disinclined to talk about it at all. Rex, however, made up for the apparent apathy of the others.
At lunch he wanted to know when they were going to move.
"Of course we don't want to go on staying in a bandbox of a place like this, when mother is a millionaire," he said.
"Only half a one," Jess corrected him with a smile.
"Well, no matter about that. I've been figuring up on the income that we could get without touching the principal, and I make it $25,000 a year."
"Oh, Reggie, Reggie, I am afraid you are incorrigible," groaned his mother.
"Why, I don't see anything out of the way in doing a little calculating here in the privacy of our home. I don't go up and proclaim it from the housetops."
"But you may be reckoning without your host, my dear brub," interposed Jess. "What if Mr. Tyler had only a thousand in bank instead of five hundred thousand?"
"Yes; we can't know anything certain till Syd comes home to-night," added Roy.
"I can't wait for that," muttered Rex, under his breath.
He subsided for the rest of his meal, however, but as soon as he had finished went up to his room and proceeded to go through all the pockets of his different suits.
"Short by a quarter," he murmured as he finally sat down on the edge of the bed and jingled the small change he had collected, "I'll have to go to mother after all."
He glanced up at a time-table stuck in the mirror, hurriedly changed his knockabout suit for his best one, and then rushed down to the dining room where Mrs. Pell was helping Eva shell peas for dinner.
He went straight up to her and put his arm affectionately about her neck.
"Moms," he said in his winning way, "I want to run up to the city for this afternoon. I'm a quarter short to buy my ticket. Won't you please let me have it? I can pay you back out of my allowance."
"What do you want to go to the city for, Rex?"
"Oh, I can't stay here in uncertainty. I want to see Syd to know for sure about things. Besides, it will keep me from shocking you here if I go."
"But Sydney is sure to be very busy. You will bother him by going to the office."
"No, I won't. He never lets me bother him. Besides, I only want to see him for a minute. You know I haven't been in town since school closed. The train goes in twenty minutes, and I'll come back with Syd. Please, moms."
"All right, Rex, you may go, but remember I trust you not to annoy Sydney. You will find my purse in my top bureau drawer, left hand corner."
"You are the best mother a boy ever had." With a hasty kiss Rex was off, secured his quarter, and then with a wave of his hand toward the family, struck out across the pasture for the path that led up over the hill in a short cut to the station.
There was nobody so easy to get along with as Rex— as long as you allowed him to have his own way.
"That is a crazy notion of his, wanting to go in to town just because he can't wait till Syd comes out," remarked Roy when he heard of it. At the same time he felt a sensation of relief to think that his impulsive brother was out of Marley and away from the temptation to disquiet the family by telling his fellow townsmen what he meant to do with their money when they came into it.
Rex meanwhile was enjoying himself hugely. He saw nobody he knew at this unusual hour of going to town, but he lay back in his seat while the breeze, created by the swift motion of the cars, rushed refreshingly past him, and built air castles of the most luxurious description.
"It must be so," he told himself, whenever the doubts suggested by Jess arose in his mind to trouble him. "Dr. Martin congratulated Roy. Everybody has known that Mr. Tyler had lots of money somewhere."
When the train reached Philadelphia, Rex hurried off to the law office where Syd had his desk. It was some distance from the station, but having spent all his money for his excursion ticket, he had none left for car fare.
"This will be the last time I'll be so short," he mused, a smile which he could not repress playing about the corners of his mouth.
Buoyed up by this reflection he did not so much mind the distance, nor the heat, which he found much more oppressive here in the city than it was in Marley. He reached Syd's place at last only to find that his brother was out and that the boy was not just sure when he would be back.
"But he'll be here before he goes to the train, won't he?" asked Rex.
"Oh yes, sure," was the reply. "His satchel is here with the books he always takes."
"I'll come back again then." Rex went out, thinking that now there was no danger of his ever having to step into the shoes of this office boy. Syd had remarked once or twice that he thought he could get him a position in a law office when he was through school.
Rex wandered along the street aimlessly for a while. If it hadn't been midsummer he might have gone over to Spruce and Walnut and called on some of his friends, but they were either at their summer homes in Marley or off traveling.
He was therefore reduced to walking to kill time, choosing the shady side and watching for any incident of city life that might divert his mind. He came to a bicycle emporium presently and stood for some time in front of it, trying to decide which wheel he should select when he came to purchase as he hoped to do very shortly now.
"That's the dandy kind," remarked a voice over his shoulder. "The Wizard motor. You can ride over all sorts of roads with it."
Rex turned and saw a fellow about a year older than himself. He had a red face and wore an outing shirt that was not as fresh as it might have been.
Rex, who was rather fastidious as to his friends, simply said "Yes," and moved on.
The fellow noticed the look which accompanied the word.
"The dude!" he muttered. "Thinks he's too good to talk with the likes o' me. I'll get even with him."
He waited an instant and then followed Rex at a distance. Presently something that he espied ahead caused him to scan the sidewalk and the street next it closely.
Then he stepped out into the roadway and picked up a piece of coal that had dropped from a passing cart. He quickened his steps and nearly caught up with Rex just as the latter was passing a Chinese laundry.
"Run for your life! Runaway team behind you!" he exclaimed suddenly, darting forward and calling out the words almost in Rex's ear. At the same instant he flung the piece of coal he had picked up straight into the window of the Chinese laundry.
There was a crash of glass and Rex, connecting the sound with the warning he had received, immediately took to his heels.
"There he goes!" called out the red faced youth to the Chinaman who promptly appeared in the door of his shop.
The Celestial's almond eyes caught sight of Rex's fleeing figure. It was enough. He dropped his iron and rushed after Rex, the conscienceless hoodlum joining in the chase.
Rex, hearing no further sound to tell him that a dangerous runaway was close upon him, had just decided to slacken his pace and turn around to investigate, when he felt a hand laid on his shoulder.
"Me got you," crowed a wheezy voice in his ear. "Now for pleecy man."
Rex was horrified to find himself in the grasp of a Chinese laundryman.
"Let go of me! What do you want?" he cried, struggling to get free.
"You breakee glass. You go to jailee. Here pleecyman now."
True enough, among the crowd that had hastily collected, was a blue-coated officer.
"Make him let me go," exclaimed Rex, appealing to the representative of the law. "I didn't do anything to him."
"Yes, he did," called out a bystander, whose sympathies had been awakened for the much suffering heathen. "I saw him running for all he was worth. That's pretty strong evidence, isn't it?"
The policeman appeared to think so, for he came up and caught Rex by the arm.
Rex never felt so humiliated in his life. Here he was, surrounded by a crowd, captured by a policeman and accused by a miserable Chinaman of breaking a pane of glass.
"It's all a mistake, I tell you," he cried, starting to wrest himself loose from the officer's grasp, and then suddenly remaining passive as he reflected that this was undignified.
"What did you run for then!" questioned the policeman.
"Because he told me to— the fellow with the red face," and Rex looked around in the throng to pick out the cause of his misfortune, but that individual had discreetly disappeared.
"I don't see him now," he went on.
"I guess you don't," put in the bystander who had already spoken. "Do you run every time anybody tells you to?"
"He said there was a runaway team behind me. Then I heard the glass break. He must have thrown the stone himself."
Rex tried to speak calmly, but he was boiling over with rage at the trick which he now realized had been played upon him.
"Me wantee new glass," the Chinaman insisted. "Play money."
How fervently Rex wished at that moment that they had come into their inheritance. He would have put his hand into his pocket, drawn out a five dollar bill with a lordly air and handed it over with the words: "Take this. I didn't break the glass, but I pity the poor heathen's distress."
As it was, he had not a penny about him. It was difficult to keep up an air of bravado under these circumstances.
The crowd was growing bigger each minute. The policeman looked somewhat perplexed. He judged from Rex's appearance that he was not a hoodlum who would be likely to throw a stone at a Chinaman's window, but he admitted that he had been running, and here was a man ready to swear that he saw him throw the stone.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Reginald Bemis Pell," replied Rex promptly. He was proud of his name, and brought it out now with a kind of flourish.
"Where do you live?" went on the officer, while the crowd pressed closer to hear the replies.
"You don't look like a boy who would break windows for the fun of it."
"Of course I wouldn't, and when my brother hears of this outrage he'll raise a big fuss over it. He's a lawyer and knows how to do it."
Rex didn't feel a bit humorous when he made this assertion, but there was something in it that struck the crowd as very funny. A good many laughed, and the policeman tried to repress a smile.
"Where is this brother of yours?"
"Right here in the city," and Rex gave the address.
"That's not far," said the officer. "We'll go round there and see if you have told us a straight story. Come along, John," he added to the laundry-man.
Rex glowed with a sense of triumph for a minute, and then began to reflect on what Syd would say at seeing him appear in such company— with a police officer and a Chinaman. And there was the crowd that strung on behind as the three moved off!
"I wish I'd stayed at home," groaned poor Rex to himself.
However, he tried to take some comfort from the fact that the policeman's arm was not on his shoulder. People they passed might think it was the Chinaman who was under arrest. Then he felt that he ought to be glad that it was midsummer, with no chance of his meeting any of his friends.
He was trying to decide what he should do in case Syd had not come back by the time they reached the office, when just as they turned into Chestnut Street a familiar voice cried out:
"Hello, Rex, what under the sun?"
It was Scott Bowman. He had just come out of a trunk store in time to confront the sorry procession.
Rex wished the manhole cover over which he was passing would suddenly give way and precipitate him under the sidewalk in theatrical trap door fashion. Scott was the last person in all the world whom he wished to see.
"Don't you come near me, Scott," he answered, "if you don't want to be disgraced. I'm under arrest."
The look of utter and complete amazement on young Bowman's face at hearing this did more to convince the officer he had the wrong person in custody than anything else. He allowed Rex to stop and parley with his friend.
The situation was explained in few words. Scott was a year older than Rex. His father was a city official with a salary of ten thousand a year. He was highly indignant when he heard of the outrage.
"This is monstrous," he said, and announcing who he was, demanded that Rex be instantly released.
"But I can't do that, Mr. Bowman, if that is really your name," responded the officer somewhat nettled. "Because this young gentleman happens to be a friend of yours, it doesn't make it any the less likely that he broke that window."
"'If that is really my name?'" repeated Scott, highly incensed. "You'll find out whether that is my name or not when I report this affair to my father."
The officer smiled; so did a number in the crowd. Rex felt that his former humiliation was nothing compared to that which he was now undergoing, having caused his friend to be treated in this insulting fashion.
"Come on," said the policeman, and the line of march to Sydney's office was resumed, Scott valiantly falling into place beside Rex, vowing vengeance on the entire force of bluecoats.
"Don't stay with me, Scott," Rex implored him. "You've borne enough. I don't want to drag you down into the mire too."
"Do you suppose I'd desert a friend in a time of need like this?" returned Scott. "I'm going to take this officer's number now while I think of it."
Scott fished a pencil out of one pocket and a railroad timetable out of the other, and glancing at the shield on the breast of the policeman made a record of the figures on it in a very conspicuous manner. But the officer did not tremble with apprehension. He simply turned to Rex and observed, "This is the place, isn't it?"
They had reached the building in which Sydney had his office.
"Yes, this is the place," replied Rex slowly. He was thinking how dreadful it would be to present himself before Syd with this crowd at his heels.
"I don't know whether he's in or not," he added. "Will you mind going up and finding out, Scott?"
"Of course I won't. I know just where the room is and I'll bring him down in a jiffy."
The policeman motioned the crowd back and he and Rex and the patient Chinaman went into the marble corridor and waited, while the throng peered in at them from the doorway and a new one began to gather from among those who passed to and fro in the building.
"I'm glad I never knew this was going to happen to me," reflected Rex. "I'd never have known a happy day if I had."
He had no fear of going to jail. He felt that there was justice enough in the world to ward that off.
But the ignominy of his present position was torture enough to a proud spirit like his.
Ah, here was one of the elevators coming down, with Scott looking eagerly out at him. And Syd was with him.
But was it Syd, this fellow with the pallid cheeks and deep circles under the eyes? Yes, it certainly was his brother, for he stepped out ahead of Scott and came over at once to pass his arm about Rex in gesture of protection.
Reginald gave an almost unconscious sigh of relief. Within that embrace he felt that he was safe.
"Now what is all this about?" said Sydney, in his business-like tone, addressing the officer. "It seems you have arrested my brother here for breaking a Chinaman's windows. Did you see him throw the stone?"
"No, but a gentleman did," replied the officer.
"Where's that gentleman now?"
He was not to be found. He had dropped out of the procession before it reached Chestnut Street.
"He was a bystander. He is not here now," answered the policeman. "I didn't think the boy did it myself, but he admits that he was running when the alarm was given."
"That amounts to nothing. Do you arrest everybody that runs in the street? Explain why you were running, Rex."
Rex did so, as he had already done.
"This fellow who told you that there was a runaway coming for you," went on Sydney; "had you seen him before?"
"Yes; he came up and spoke to me while I was looking in a store window at some bicycles."
"Did you answer him?"
Rex hesitated a moment.
"Well, I didn't exactly like his looks, so I said 'yes' or 'no, ' I forget which now, and went on."
"This seems like a clear case of the wrong man, officer," summed up Sydney. "It was that hoodlum who broke the glass just for the sake of getting my brother into trouble. You ought to see that plainly enough. You do, don't you?"
"Yes, now. I didn't know all the story before. I beg the young gentleman's pardon. Come, John, we'll have to look elsewhere for your tormentor," and the officer took the Chinaman by the arm and walked out with him.
IN SYDNEY'S OFFICE
"I'm awfully sorry, Syd," began Rex, as soon as the three were left alone and had stepped into the elevator. "I never felt so disgraced in my life."
"You did nothing wrong," replied Syd, pressing his hand against his forehead for an instant as if it pained him. "But what are you doing in town?"
"I came to see you," answered Rex, and then looked at Scott, who had said that as it was so near train time he would wait and go to the station with the Pells. "But you are ill," he went on the next instant, his eyes coming back to the other's face. "What is the matter, Syd?"
"Oh, I'm all right," responded the young lawyer. He forced a smile to his lips, and turning to Scott asked when the Bowmans expected to start on their trip.
"Monday," was the reply. "It's too bad Rex can't come with us. I was counting on him. We'd have no end of fun."
"Oh, Syd," suddenly broke in Rex, "did you know that old Mr. Tyler was dead? Or did he die before you came home last night?"
A sort of spasm passed over Sydney's face, but they were just stepping out of the elevator, and neither of the boys noticed it.
"Yes; he died before I left," he answered, as they entered his rooms, which he shared with a fellow member of the bar who was now away. "But I've got some last things to attend to before I leave. You fellows make yourselves comfortable in there and I'll be ready in five minutes."
He pointed to the adjoining room, where Rex and Scott at once established themselves in the window and looked down on the busy street far below them.
"I didn't know Tyler was dead," began Scott. "I heard what Roy did for him on the bridge, though. By George, that was plucky! But by the way, what's the matter with your brother Sydney? He looks terribly. Didn't you notice it?"
"Of course I did and spoke about it He's working too hard, I guess. I say, Scott, you won't tell anybody about my adventure this afternoon?"
"Of course I shan't; only father, to report how insulting that policeman was."
"No, let that go. I wouldn't like even your father to hear it. I feel humiliated enough that you should know about it. Say, Scott!" Rex paused suddenly. The recollection of his recent experience stung him whenever it came up in his mind. He felt that Scott must be constantly thinking of it, too. He wanted to tell him something that would banish it from his thoughts.
"Well, my boy, what is it?" rejoined Scott.
"If I tell you something, will you promise to keep it a secret till— till everybody knows it, as they will probably in a day or two?"
"Of course I will. It must be something mighty important from your mysterious air, old fellow."
"It is, awfully important." Rex's eyes were fixed on Scott's trowsers. He saw that they were a new pair, evidently purchased to be worn on the trip. What a thing it was to have money so that you could get extra things whenever you wanted them and not be obliged to wait till you could afford it! And the Pells would even be richer than the Bowmans.
Rex paused so long while he was thinking over all this that Scott broke in with, "Well, what is it? Don't keep me on the rack so long."
"Perhaps I shouldn't tell you," went on Rex; "but some people know it in Marley already, and you are my best friend, you know. Old man Tyler left his money to mother and it's something like half a million!"
"Reginald Pell!" Scott brought out these words with strong emphasis, then seized his friend's hand and wrung it heartily.
"Don't!" said Rex, seeing that Syd was coming toward them. "It seems awful to be congratulated now when the old man isn't buried yet, and—"
"What's that you're saying?" Sydney had hastened forward and laid his hand on Rex's shoulder.
Rex colored. Syd looked so very serious, and now, as he stood there in the full glare of daylight, the signs of suffering on his face were plainly apparent.
"Syd, you are ill?" exclaimed Rex, forgetting about what he had been saying. "You ought to be at home at once."
"Never mind about me, Reggie. Tell me what you were just telling Scott."
"I didn't think it was any harm. A good many people in Marley know it now. I was telling him about— about Mr. Tyler's will."
"What about it?" Sydney's eyes were looking steadily, unsmilingly down into his brother's as he put the question.
Rex was really frightened now. He had never seen Sydney look just like this before.
"I told him about leaving his money to us on account of what Roy had done," he faltered. "I didn't—"
Sydney's eyes closed; he started to reel backwards and would have fallen had not Scott sprung forward and caught him.
"Help me ease him down in the chair, Rex," he called out.
Scarcely knowing what he was doing, Reginald took hold of his brother's other arm and between them the two boys got him down gently into a chair that stood near the window.
"He isn't dead, is he?"
Rex's voice was hardly more than a whisper as he put the awful question. Sydney certainly looked almost like a corpse, with his pallid face and his head hanging itself lifelessly over on one side.
It was a trying situation for the two boys. Neither of them had had the slightest experience with cases of this sort. It was so late in the afternoon that the offices around them were all empty.
"No, he is not dead, I'm sure of that," Scott replied, who, as the senior of Rex by some eleven months, felt that it was natural for the other to seem to rely upon him. "We ought to have a doctor at once, though."
"But we can't leave him that way while I go for one. Besides, I don't know where to go."
"Neither do I. Our doctor is clear at the other end of town and besides he's down at Atlantic City by this time anyway."
"It's awful, isn't it? Oh, what shall we do, Scott?"
"We might ring for an ambulance. That's the quickest way."
"Oh, we don't want to have him taken to the hospital. Come, help me get him out of that chair. It's horrible to see his head hang over like that."
"But where can we put him? There's no lounge about, is there?"
"No, but we might let him lie on the floor, on that rug yonder. See, we can take this cushion out of this chair for a pillow."
With much difficulty, for they felt that they must go about the work of transfer with the greatest care, the unconscious man was removed and placed in what both boys considered would be an easier position for him. But when he was stretched out at their feet, the spectacle was such an ominous one that Rex almost wished that they had left him where he was.
"Don't you think we ought to throw water in his face or fan him or something?" he asked helplessly.
"I don't know what we ought to do, Rex, except I think we ought to have a doctor the first thing. I tell you! You stay here with him and I'll go down and find a drug store. They'll know where I can get a doctor there."
"All right; be as quick as you can."
Scott was off on the instant and Rex was left alone with the unconscious Sydney. His mind was filled with a multitude of thoughts in regard to the strange seizure. Was he, Reginald, responsible for it? What if he had not come to Philadelphia, would it have happened?
He tried to console himself with the reflection that the thing was bound to occur any way, and that it was providential that he and Scott were present to give aid.
Then he remembered how the attack had come on at the very moment when Sydney learned that he (Rex) had told of their inheritance from the miser, and he felt more dismal than ever.
It was very quiet in that great office building at this time of the day. The noise of the car bells and traffic that came in through the open windows from the street far below only made the stillness within more marked. The office boy had taken the mail and gone home just before Rex and Scott arrived.
Rex glanced up at the clock. They would not be able to catch the express now. How good Scott was to stay with him. He would pay him back for it all when they came into their fortune.
But he seemed to be a long while gone. Rex left his position by Sydney and went to the window. By leaning very far out he could just see over the heavy stone still to the street below. But it was quite impossible to recognize any one at that distance.
He wriggled back till his feet touched the floor again, and then returned to take up his watch by Sydney once more. He wished that Roy was with him. Though they were twins he felt that his brother possessed twice the self reliance in emergencies that he did.
"I wonder if I ought to telegraph to mother," was his next thought.
Then he heard the door of the elevator slide back, and the next instant Scott Bowman appeared, accompanied by a short man with side whiskers and spectacles.
THE MYSTERY ABOUT SYDNEY
The boys stood by in anxious suspense while the doctor made his examination.
"It is utter collapse from severe mental strain," he said after a minute. "He will come around presently."
He wrote out a prescription and gave it to Scott to take out for him and then turned to Rex.
"You are Mr. Pell's brother, I believe?" he said.
"Yes," answered Rex, for the fact that there was no blood relation between them was one that very seldom recurred to the boys' minds.
"Then perhaps you will be able to assign some cause for this seizure. Was Mr. Pell excited by anything in particular when it took him?"
Rex hesitated. Remembering how Sydney had been affected by learning that he had revealed the facts about Mr. Tyler's will to Scott, he felt that he ought not to speak of the matter to any one else.
"Yes, he was excited by a— a family affair," he replied, hoping this was all he need say on the matter.
"Humph!" muttered the physician, and he not only took another critical look at Sydney's face, but favored Rex with a long stare, too.
"Will he be well enough to go down to Marley to-night?" asked the latter.
"You live out of town then?" returned the doctor. "There's no place where you could take him here in the city?"
"None, but a hotel," rejoined Rex. "And I'm sure my mother would rather have him home."
At this point Sydney stirred and opened his eyes. He looked first at the doctor, frowned deeply, and then as Rex came forward within his range of vision, he beckoned the boy to him.
Rex hurried over and knelt by his side.
"Who is that?" asked Sydney.
"It's a doctor. You fainted or something and Scott went out to get him. How do you feel?"
"Pretty weak, but ask him to step into the next room a minute. I want to speak to you."
"Doctor, will you mind waiting in the next room a minute? My brother wants to see me about something."
Rex was afraid the physician might feel offended or else object to leaving his patient, but he said, "Why, certainly," and then came over to take a close look at the young lawyer before leaving him.
As soon as he had gone Sydney put out one arm and passing it around Rex's neck, drew the boy's ear close to his mouth.
"Did I say anything while I was unconscious?" he whispered.
"No," replied Rex, mystified. "Nothing at all. But what does all this mean, Syd? What is worrying you so terribly?"
"Don't let it worry you and then it will worry me less. What time is it?"
"Half past five."
"Then we ought to catch the six o'clock train."
"But you're not strong enough to go now," objected Rex. "You're as pale as a ghost."
"Am I?" A wan smile lit up Sydney's face for an instant "Well, then, exercise will perhaps bring some of the color back. You can call the doctor in now and we'll see what he says."
Scott arrived with the filled prescription just as Rex brought the physician back into the room. Sydney objected to lying on the floor any longer and they helped him to a chair.
"Yes, you can go home if you don't do any walking," said the doctor after another examination.
"All right, I can go down in the elevator, get a carriage from the hotel across the street and ride right up to the station. You rush down and engage one, Rex. Scott will stay here and help the doctor down with me. Then he can go along with us. Don't lose any time, Reggie."
With an immensely relieved mind Rex hurried off to execute the commission. He had really feared at one time that Sydney was going to die.
He was rallying rapidly now. When he entered the coach he took out his pocketbook and paid the doctor for his services.
"We owe you something, Scott," he added after they had started, "for what you got at the drug store."
Scott protested, but was in the end obliged to take what he had paid out.
"It's been an exciting afternoon for you fellows," remarked Sydney, and Rex could not help but notice that while his tone was light, his face was still pale and that be did not look at them while he was speaking.
"I want you to promise me one thing, though. That you will not speak of my fainting spell at home, or you either, Scott. I have a particular reason for asking that favor."
Both boys promised to respect his wishes, and then Sydney quickly changed the subject to the Bowmans' trip, asking at what hotels they were going to stop, and so on until the carriage reached the station. He seemed so much better by this time that when he met a friend on the train and took a seat with him, Rex and Scott almost forgot that he had been ill.
They found places together near by, but neither said much during the short ride. Rex felt that Scott must be thinking of how Sydney had broken in upon his revelation of their inheritance, and wondering what it could mean. He couldn't explain it, so he thought best not to broach the subject.
And as this filled so large a part of his thoughts there was nothing else he cared to talk about. After all his trip to Philadelphia had not been productive of any results. He knew no more now than when he started about the extent of Mr. Tyler's fortune.
When they reached Marley, Sydney took a hack that always waited at the station, and he and Rex rode down to the Pellery, Scott living close to the station in the other direction.
"Do you feel all right, Syd?" asked Rex during the ride.
Sydney nodded without making any reply, and soon they reached home. Rex was unusually silent during dinner. He looked up in surprised fashion when he learned that Sydney had gone off without his breakfast that morning. Sydney explained that it was due to urgent business in town. Rex wondered what the family would think if they knew about the scene at the office that afternoon.
Nobody said anything about Mr. Tyler after Sydney had admitted that he died before he left him the previous night. Rex was the one most likely to discourse on the subject, but now he had his reasons for not broaching it.
The next morning Sydney did not go to the city. He devoted himself to making arrangements for Mr. Tyler's burial. The death was published in all the Philadelphia papers, and the Pells expected that some one might come down, claiming to be a relative.
But no one appeared, and on Saturday the funeral was held in the little house in Burdock. All the Pells were present, and a great number of people from Marley.
The news that the miser was very wealthy and had left all his money, except a small legacy to his servant, to Mrs. Pell, spread rapidly and created a great sensation.
Everybody connected it with Roy's act of rescue on the trestle, and so many spoke to him about it that he was almost afraid to show himself in public.
"What do you care?" said Jess, when he complained to her about it. "It certainly isn't a thing you are ashamed of."
"But I don't know what to say," he returned. "It sounds silly to tell them it wasn't anything, and I can't say, yes, I think it was a very brave act. So there I am."
"You poor boy. What do you do, usually?"
"Try to get around it by telling them that I'm not the heir but mother. I suppose that's kind of mean, too, for I know she hates to be spoken to about it as much as I do."
The Pells were the observed of all observers at the funeral. Eva had declared at first that she thought they ought not to go.
"We'll just make a show of ourselves," she said. "It was very unfortunate all this got out before Mr. Tyler was buried."
But Mrs. Pell announced that respect for the dead demanded their presence, so they went. Every one remarked on the pallor of Sydney. His mother had worried over it considerably.
"You must be the first to take advantage of our altered circumstances, my dear boy," she had told him. "I want you to give up work for a while and go away for a good long rest."
"Oh, no, no!" he cried out in such terror that the poor woman was startled.
He noticed it and tried to smile as he went on:
"Of course all this business about the Tyler will has been an extra strain on me, but that will soon be off now. It is you and the children who must benefit by the money that has come so unexpectedly. You will make me, oh, so much happier, if you will not count me in on it. You will not need my help now, and my income will be abundant for my own wants."
Seeing that he felt so strongly on the matter, Mrs. Pell said no more at the time, but she often thought of that talk later and shivered as she recalled it.
ROY MAKES A NEW ACQUAINTANCE
It was just a month after our story opened that July afternoon. Roy was fishing from the tree trunk over the creek again, but he was alone this time and the expression on his face was almost as discontented as Reginald's had been on that former occasion.
His float bobbed under two or three times, but he paid no attention to the fact. He was too deeply absorbed in thought. Now and then he would glance up at the trestle far above him, and something very like a sigh would pass his lips.
There was a snapping of twigs on the Marley end of the log and Roy turned his head quickly to find a young man regarding him attentively. He might have been anywhere from twenty-five to thirty. He had a small brown mustache and rather a dark complexion.
He held a small oblong box in both his hands. Roy at once recognized it as a camera and realized at the same instant that it was pointed at him.
As their eyes met, the stranger flushed slightly, but said in a pleasant voice:
"I hope you don't mind being taken?"
Roy did mind. He was in a mood just now to object to everything, but the other's voice was such an agreeable one, the glance of his eye so kindly that the boy's real self came to the surface through his temporarily baser one, and he replied:
"Oh, I s'pose not, but I haven't got the pleasant look the photographers tell you to put on. Aren't you afraid I'll break your camera?"
The answer was a quick snap and then the young man slung the camera over his shoulder and stepping out on the tree trunk slipped down to a seat beside Roy.
"You have a very cozy retreat here," he remarked, "how's the fishing?"
"I don't know. To tell the truth I wasn't thinking of my line at all and I'm almost sorry I let you take that picture. I don't see what you wanted it for any way, I hope you won't show it around much. You don't live in Marley, do you?"
"I'm glad of that"
"Why?" with a smile.
"Because nobody I know will be apt to see the picture."
"You're quite a modest young man."
"Oh, it isn't that, but I must have looked so disagreeable at that particular moment. At least I must have done so if my looks were anything like my feelings."
"No, if I remember rightly you were smiling at the instant I pressed the button. You know you were saying something about fearing you would break the camera, and a smile usually goes with that remark."
Roy looked up quickly. The stranger was an odd one. He had a queer way of putting things. Roy began to be interested.
"Have you taken many pictures around here?"
"Quite a number. It's a very pretty place."
"That bridge quite adds to the attractiveness of the landscape. In fact that is the reason I am here. I was coming through on the train and as we crossed, the prospect of this little valley was so tempting that I decided to stop off and explore. I am very glad I did now, for it gave me the added pleasure of meeting you."
"That sounds as though you were talking to a girl," said Roy.
"Does it? Well, as I am particularly fond of boys I suppose I may be allowed to say the same sort of things to them."
"You're fond of boys? That's queer. I didn't know any one liked boys except their mothers and now and then a girl or two."
Roy laughed a little as he added this last, and the stranger joined in heartily.
"You're very frank," he remarked; "but that's what boys usually are, and it's one of the reasons I like them. They generally say right out just what they think."
"What's another reason?"
The man with the camera hesitated an instant before replying. Then he said:
"Well, I'm going to be frank, too. Another reason I like boys is because I find them useful to me."
"Useful to you?" repeated Roy, perplexed.
"Yes, as a matter of study. You see, I write about them sometimes."
"Why, are you an author?"
Roy turned full around on the log as he put the question, his face all aglow with animation.
"I suppose that's what I must call myself even if I'm not a particularly famous one."
"Please tell me the names of some of your books. Perhaps I've read them."
The young man smiled at his companion's eagerness and mentioned a story which had been Roy's Christmas present two years before.
"Did you write that?" he exclaimed. "Why, then you are Mr. Charles Keeler!"
"Yes, I am Mr. Keeler. I suppose you are disappointed in me. Most people are when they see the people who write books they have read."
"That was a splendid story," Roy drew in a long breath before he made this reply. He was still looking at Mr. Keeler as if he could not yet quite comprehend the thing. "I'm awfully glad to meet you and I'd like to shake hands."
"With the greatest of pleasure. I'm very glad you liked my book; I know you wouldn't say so if you didn't. That's where boys are superior to grown people. They are almost always sincere in the expression of their opinions."
"Do you know I've never seen an author before?" went on Roy, who had wound up his line and had given himself over to a full enjoyment of this unexpected opportunity. "I don't see how you do it. I hate to write compositions at school. Nearly every boy I know does. Did you?"
"Yes, when I had to write on subjects that were assigned by the teacher I used to count the lines then just the same as the rest of the fellows. But when they let me write a story I didn't mind."
"I don't see how you can. I should think you'd never know what to say next."
Mr. Keeler smiled, showing his white teeth which contrasted so strongly with the deep tan on his complexion.
"Oh, that all comes when you have your scheme arranged," he said. "But of course you have to possess a natural taste for the work. You can't suddenly decide that you would like to be an author and then study for it as you might learn to be a carpenter or a mason."
"Oh, it's like poets, then, who are 'born, not made,'" returned Roy.
"Precisely, and that being the case it comes natural to write, although there is a great deal of hard work about it."
"You said you studied boys. How do you mean?"
"Well, take yourself for example. When I saw you sitting here fishing I wanted your picture so I could look at it some day and perhaps make up a story about you."
"A story about me!" exclaimed Roy. Then he added in a sober tone, "I don't believe you could make up a more wonderful story than something that has really happened to me."
"Is that so? I remember now you said you were very much disturbed over something that you thought would make you look disagreeable."
"Yes, I came down here because I was at odds with myself and everybody else, I wonder what you'd do with a hero who was just in my position. I've half a mind to tell you all about it. You don't know who I am, so it won't matter. Do you live in Philadelphia?"
"No, in New York just at present."
"Good, then I believe I'll tell you, but you must promise you won't use it in a book unless I tell you you can."
"Here's my hand on it," and once more hands were clasped over the tree trunk.
"And you must promise, too, to believe everything I tell you. Some of it will seem pretty steep."
"Oh, well, you know, that fact is stranger than fiction, so don't worry about that."
"I won't tell you everything," began Roy, with a quick glance up at the trestle, "but first I'll have to go back a little and say that almost as far back as I can remember we've lived in that house you can see down yonder with the peaked roof. We had only about enough money to keep us comfortable, for father died when I was a little fellow, and there were five of us children. But we had good times and I was looking forward to the future when I would be a man and Rex and I— that's my twin brother— could give mother some of the luxuries with what we should earn, for I expected that by that time Sydney would be married and have a home of his own. You're not bored listening to all this, are you? There's a more exciting part coming?"