“Well, good by, Rodney! I leave school tomorrow. I am going to learn atrade.”
“I am sorry to part with you, David. Couldn’t you stay another term?”
“No: my uncle says I must be earning my living, and I have a chance tolearn the carpenter’s trade.”
“Where are you going?”
“To Duffield, some twenty miles away. I wish I were in your shoes. Youhave no money cares, and can go on quietly and complete your education.”
“I don’t know how I am situated, David. I only know that my guardianpays my expenses at this boarding school.”
“Yes, you are a star boarder, and have the nicest room in theinstitution. I am only a poor day scholar. Still I feel thankful that Ihave been allowed to remain as long as I have. Who is your guardian?”
“A Mr. Benjamin Fielding, of New York.”
“Is he a business man?”
“I believe so.”
“Do you know how much you will inherit when you come of age?” askedDavid, after a short pause.
“I haven’t an idea.”
“It seems to me your guardian ought to have told you.”
“I scarcely know my guardian. Five years ago I spent a week at his home.I don’t remember much about it except that he lives in a handsome house,and has plenty of servants. Since then, as you know, I have passed mostof my time here, except that in the summer I was allowed to board at theCatskills or any country place I might select.”
“Yes, and I remember one year you took me with you and paid all myexpenses. I shall never forget your kindness, and how much I enjoyedthat summer.”
Rodney Ropes smiled, and his smile made his usually grave face look veryattractive.
“My dear David,” he said, “it was all selfishness on my part. I knew Ishould enjoy myself much better with a companion.”
“You may call that selfishness, Rodney, but it is a kind of selfishnessthat makes me your devoted friend. How long do you think you shallremain at school?”
“I don’t know. My guardian has never told me his plans for me. I wish hewould.”
“I shall miss you, Rodney, but we will correspond, won’t we?”
“Surely. You know I shall always feel interested in you and yourwelfare.”
David was a plain boy of humble parentage, and would probably be a hardworking mechanic. In fact he was looking for nothing better.
But Rodney Ropes looked to be of genteel blood, and had the air ofone who had been brought up a gentleman. But different as they were insocial position the two boys had always been devoted friends.
The boarding school of which Rodney was, as his friend expressedhimself, a star pupil, was situated about fifty miles from the city ofNew York. It was under the charge of Dr. Sampson, a tall, thin manof fair scholarship, keenly alive to his own interest, who showedpartiality for his richer pupils, and whenever he had occasion tocensure bore most heavily upon boys like David Hull, who was poor.
Rodney occupied alone the finest room in the school. There was a greatcontrast between his comfortable quarters and the extremely plaindormitories occupied by less favored pupils.
In the case of some boys the favoritism of the teacher would have ledthem to put on airs, and made them unpopular with their schoolfellows. But Rodney had too noble a nature to be influenced by suchconsiderations. He enjoyed his comfortable room, but treated his schoolfellows with a frank cordiality that made him a general favorite.
After David left his room Rodney sat down to prepare a lesson in Cicero,when he was interrupted by the entrance through the half open door of ayounger boy.
“Rodney,” he said, “the doctor would like to see you in his office.”
“Very well, Brauner, I will go down at once.”
He put aside his book and went down to the office of Dr. Sampson on thefirst floor.
The doctor was sitting at his desk. He turned slightly as Rodneyentered.
“Take a seat, Ropes,” he said curtly.
His tone was so different from his usual cordiality that Rodney wassomewhat surprised.
“Am I in disgrace?” he asked himself. “Dr. Sampson doesn’t seem asfriendly as usual.”
After a brief interval Dr. Sampson wheeled round in his office chair.
“I have a letter for you from your guardian, Ropes,” he said. “Here itis. Do me the favor to read it here.”
With some wonder Rodney took the letter and read as follows:
DEAR RODNEY--I have bad news to communicate. As you know, I was left byyour father in charge of you and your fortune. I have never told youthe amount, but I will say now that it was about fifty thousand dollars.Until two years since I kept it intact but then began a series ofreverses in which my own fortune was swallowed up. In the hope ofrelieving myself I regret to say that I was tempted to use your money.That went also, and now of the whole sum there remains but enough topay the balance of your school bills, leaving you penniless. How much Iregret this I cannot tell you. I shall leave New York at once. I do notcare at present to say where I shall go, but I shall try to make goodthe loss, and eventually restore to you your lost fortune. I may besuccessful or I may not. I shall do my best and I hope in time to havebetter news to communicate.
One thing I am glad to say. I have a casket containing your mother’sjewels. These are intact. I shall send you the casket by express,knowing that you will wish to keep them out of regard for your mother’smemory. In case you are reduced to the necessity of pawning or sellingthem, I am sure that your mother, could she be consulted, would adviseyou to do so. This would be better than to have you suffer from want.
There is nothing further for me to write except to repeat my regret, andrenew my promise to make up your lost fortune if I shall ever to able todo so. Your Guardian, BENJAMIN FIELDING.
Rodney read this like one dazed. In an instant he was reduced from theposition of a favorite of fortune to a needy boy, with his living tomake.
He could not help recalling what had passed between his friend David andhimself earlier in the day. Now he was as poor as David--poorer, in factfor David had a chance to learn a trade that would yield him a living,while he was utterly without resources, except in having an unusuallygood education.
“Well,” said Dr. Sampson, “have you read your letter?”
“Your guardian wrote to me also. This is his letter,” and he placed thebrief epistle in Rodney’s hands.
DR. SAMPSON--I have written my ward, Rodney Ropes, an importantletter which he will show you. The news which it contains will make itnecessary for him to leave school. I inclose a check for one hundred andtwenty five dollars. Keep whatever is due you, and give him the balance.BENJAMIN FIELDING.
“I have read the letter, but I don’t know what it means,” said Dr.Sampson. “Can you throw any light upon it?”
“Here is my letter, doctor. You can read it for yourself.”
Dr. Sampson’s face changed as he read Rodney’s letter. It changed andhardened, and his expression became quite different from that to whichRodney had been accustomed.
“This is a bad business, Ropes,” said the doctor in a hard tone.
He had always said Rodney before.
“That was a handsome fortune which your father left you.”
“Yes, sir. I never knew before how much it amounted to.”
“You only learn when you have lost it. Mr. Fielding has treated youshamefully.”
“Yes, sir, I suppose he has, but he says he will try to make it up to mein the future.”
“Pish! that is all humbug. Even if he is favored by fortune you willnever get back a cent.”
“I think I shall, sir.”
“You are young. You do not know the iniquities of business men. I do.”
“I prefer to hope for the best.”
“Just as you please.”
“Have you anything more to say to me?”
“Only that I will figure up your account and see how much money is tocome to you out of the check your guardian has sent. You can stay heretill Monday; then you will find it best to make new arrangements.”
“Very well, sir.”
Rodney left the room, realizing that Dr. Sampson’s feelings had beenchanged by his pupil’s reverse of fortune.
It was the way of the world, but it was not a pleasant way, and Rodneyfelt depressed.