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Chester Rand; or, The New Path to Fortune

Chester Rand; or, The New Path to Fortune

Author:Jr. Horatio Alger


Probably the best known citizen of Wyncombe, a small town nestling among the Pennsylvania mountains, was Silas Tripp. He kept the village store, occasionally entertained t...
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  Probably the best known citizen of Wyncombe, a small town nestlingamong the Pennsylvania mountains, was Silas Tripp. He kept the villagestore, occasionally entertained travelers, having three spare rooms,was town treasurer, and conspicuous in other local offices.

  The store was in the center of the village, nearly opposite theprincipal church--there were two--and here it was that the townspeoplegathered to hear and discuss the news.

  Silas Tripp had one assistant, a stout, pleasant-looking boy offifteen, who looked attractive, despite his well-worn suit. ChesterRand was the son of a widow, who lived in a tiny cottage about fiftyrods west of the Presbyterian church, of which, by the way, Silas Trippwas senior deacon, for he was a leader in religious as well as secularaffairs.

  Chester's father had died of pneumonia about four years before thestory commences, leaving his widow the cottage and about two hundredand fifty dollars. This sum little by little had melted, and a monthprevious the last dollar had been spent for the winter's supply ofcoal.

  Mrs. Rand had earned a small income by plain sewing and binding shoesfor a shoe shop in the village, but to her dismay the announcement hadjust been made that the shop would close through the winter on accountof the increased price of leather and overproduction during the year.

  "What shall we do, Chester?" she asked, in alarm, when the news came."We can't live on your salary, and I get very little sewing to do."

  "No, mother," said Chester, his own face reflecting her anxiety; "wecan't live on three dollars a week."

  "I have been earning two dollars by binding shoes," said Mrs. Rand. "Ithas been hard enough to live on five dollars a week, but I don't knowhow we can manage on three."

  "I'll tell you what I'll do, mother. I'll ask Mr. Tripp to raise my payto four dollars a week."

  "But will he do it? He is a very close man, and always pleadingpoverty."

  "But I happen to know that he has ten thousand dollars invested inPennsylvania Railroad stock. I overheard him saying so to Mr. Gardner."

  "Ten thousand dollars! It seems a fortune!" sighed Mrs. Rand. "Why dosome people have so much and others so little?"

  "It beats me, mother. But I don't think either of us would exchangeplaces with Silas Tripp with all his money. By the way, mother, Mr.Tripp is a widower. Why don't you set your cap for him?"

  Mrs. Rand smiled, as her imagination conjured up the weazened andwrinkled face of the village storekeeper, with his gray hair standingup straight on his head like a natural pompadour.

  "If you want Mr. Tripp for a stepfather," she said, "I will see what Ican do to ingratiate myself with him."

  "No, a thousand times no!" replied Chester, with a shudder. "I'd ratherlive on one meal a day than have you marry him."

  "I agree with you, Chester. We will live for each other, and hope forsomething to turn up."

  "I hope the first thing to turn up will be an increase of salary.To-morrow is New Year's Day, and it will be a good time to ask."

  Accordingly, that evening, just as the store was about to close,Chester gathered up courage and said: "Mr. Tripp."

  "Well, that's my name," said Silas, looking over his iron-bowedspectacles.

  "To-morrow is New Year's Day."

  "What if 'tis? I reckon I knew that without your tellin' me."

  "I came here last New Year's Day. I've been here a year."

  "What if you have?"

  "And I thought perhaps you might be willing to raise my salary to fourdollars a week," continued Chester, hurriedly.

  "Oho, that's what you're after, is it?" said Silas, grimly. "You thinkI'm made of money, I reckon. Now, don't you?"

  "No, I don't; but, Mr. Tripp, mother and I find it very hard to getalong, really we do. She won't have any more shoes to bind for threemonths to come, on account of the shoe shop's closing."

  "It's going to hurt me, too," said Silas, with a frown. "When onebusiness suspends it affects all the rest. I'll have mighty hard workto make both ends meet."

  This struck Chester as ludicrous, but he did not feel inclined tolaugh. Here was Silas Tripp gathering in trade from the entire villageand getting not a little in addition from outlying towns, complainingthat he would find it hard to make both ends meet, though everyone saidthat he did not spend one-third of his income. On the whole, things didnot look very encouraging.

  "Perhaps," he said, nervously, "you would raise me to three dollars anda half?"

  "What is the boy thinkin' of? You must think I'm made of money. Why,three dollars is han'some pay for what little you do."

  "Why, I work fourteen hours a day," retorted Chester.

  "I'm afraid you're gettin' lazy. Boys shouldn't complain of their work.The fact is, Chester, I feel as if I was payin' you too much."

  "Too much! Three dollars a week too much!"

  "Too much, considerin' the state of business, and yourself bein' a boy.I've been meanin' to tell you that I've got a chance to get a cheaperboy."

  "Who is it?" asked Chester, in dismay.

  "It's Abel Wood. Abel Wood is every mite as big and strong as you are,and he come round last evenin' and said he'd work for two dollars and aquarter a week."

  "I couldn't work for that," said Chester.

  "I don't mind bein' generous, considerin' you've been working for memore than a year. I'll give you two dollars and a half. That'stwenty-five cents more'n the Wood boy is willin' to take."

  "Abel Wood doesn't know anything about store work."

  "I'll soon learn him. Sitooated as I am, I feel that I must look afterevery penny," and Mr. Tripp's face looked meaner and more weazened thanever as he fixed his small, bead-like eyes on his boy clerk.

  "Then I guess I'll have to leave you, Mr. Tripp," said Chester, with adeep feeling of disgust and dismay.

  "Do just as you like," said his employer. "You're onreasonable toexpect to get high pay when business is dull."

  "High pay!" repeated Chester, bitterly. "Three dollars a week!"

  "It's what I call high pay. When I was a boy, I only earned two dollarsa week."

  "Money would go further when you were a boy."

  "Yes, it did. Boys wasn't so extravagant in them days."

  "I don't believe you were ever extravagant, Mr. Tripp," said Chester,with a tinge of sarcasm which his employer didn't detect.

  "No, I wasn't. I don't want to brag, but I never spent a centfoolishly. Do you know how much money I spent the first three months Iwas at work?"

  "A dollar?" guessed Chester.

  "A dollar!" repeated Mr. Tripp, in a tone of disapproval. "No, I onlyspent thirty-seven cents."

  "Then I don't wonder you got rich," said Chester, with a curl of thelip.

  "I ain't rich," said Silas Tripp, cautiously. "Who told you I was?"

  "Everybody says so."

  "Then everybody is wrong. I'm a leetle 'forehanded, that's all."

  "I've heard people say you could afford to give up work and live on theinterest of your money."

  Silas Tripp held up his hands as if astounded.

  "'Tain't so," he said, sharply. "If I gave up business, I'd soon be inthe poorhouse. Well, what do you say? Will you stay along and work fortwo dollars and a half a week?"

  "I couldn't do it," said Chester, troubled.

  "All right! It's jest as you say. Your week ends to-morrow night. Ifyou see Abel Wood, you can tell him I want to see him."

  "I will," answered Chester, bitterly.

  As he walked home he felt very despondent. Wouldn't it have beenbetter, he asked himself, to accept reduced wages than to give up hisjob? It would have been hard enough to attempt living on two dollarsand a half a week, but that was better than no income at all. And yet,it looked so mean in Silas Tripp to present such an alternative, whenhe was abundantly able to give him the increase he asked for.

  "I must tell mother and see what she thinks about it," he said tohimself.