Chapter XVIII. A Visit to the Lawyer.
 

Mrs. Rushton was braiding straw when Robert entered with his berries.

"Couldn't you sell your berries, Robert?" she asked.

"I haven't tried yet, mother."

"The berrying season won't last much longer," said his mother, despondently.

"Don't borrow trouble, mother. I am sure we shall get along well."

"You feel more confidence than I do."

"I just met Halbert Davis in the street."

"Have you made up with him?"

"It is for him to make up with me."

"I am afraid you are too high-spirited, Robert. Did Halbert speak to you?"

"Oh, yes," said Robert, laughing. "He takes a great interest in my affairs. He predicts that we shall come to the poorhouse yet."

"He may be right."

"Now, mother, don't be so desponding. We've got enough money to pay our expenses for more than a year, even if we both stop work."

"What can you mean, Robert?" said his mother, looking up in surprise. "You must be crazy."

"Does that look like going to the poorhouse?" asked Robert, drawing out his money.

Mrs. Rushton uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"Whose money is that, Robert?"

"Mine!"

"You haven't done anything wrong?"

"No, mother; I thought you knew me too well for that. I see you are anxious to hear how I obtained it, so I'll tell you all about it."

He sat down, and in brief words told his mother the story of the train and its peril, how he had rescued it, and, lastly, of the generous gift which he had so unexpectedly received. The mother's heart was touched, and she forgot all her forebodings.

"My son, I am proud of you," she said, her eyes moist. "You have done a noble deed, and you deserve the reward. But what a risk you ran!"

"I know it, mother, but we won't think of that, now that it is over. How much, money do you think I have here?"

"Two or three hundred dollars."

"Six hundred and thirty-five! So you see, mother, we needn't go to the poorhouse just yet. Now, how much better off should I have been if I had kept my place in the factory? It would have taken me more than two years to earn as much money as this. But that isn't all. I have been the means of saving a great many lives, for the train was sure to be thrown down the embankment. I shall remember that all my life."

"We have reason to be grateful to Heaven that you have been the means of doing so much good, Robert, while, at the same time, you have benefited yourself."

"That is true, mother."

"I shall be afraid to have so much money in the house. If it were known, we might be robbed."

"I will leave it with Mr. Paine until I get a chance to put it in a savings bank. He has a safe in his office. At the same time I will carry him some berries as a present. It won't be much, but I should like to do it on account of his kindness about the boat. I will offer now to bear the expense of its repair."

After washing his hands and adjusting his clothes a little, for Robert, though no fop like Halbert, was not regardless of appearances, especially as he thought Hester might see him, he set out for the lawyer's office.

"Excuse my bringing in my berries," said Robert, as he entered the office, "but I want to ask your acceptance of them."

Many persons, under the supposition that Robert was too poor to afford a gift, would have declined it, or offered to pay for it, thinking they were acting kindly and considerately. But Mr. Paine knew that Robert would be mortified by such an offer, and he answered:

"Thank you, Robert; I will accept your gift with thanks on one condition."

"What is it, Mr. Paine?" inquired our hero, a little puzzled.

"That you will take tea with us to-morrow evening, and help us do justice to them."

"Thank you," said Robert, not a little pleased at the invitation, "but I shouldn't like to leave my mother at home alone."

"Oh, we must have your mother, too. Hester will call this evening, and invite her."

"Then," said Robert, "I can answer for myself, and I think for her, that we should both be very happy to come."

The lawyer's social position made such an invitation particularly gratifying to Robert. Besides, he was led to value it more on account of the persistent efforts of Halbert to injure him in the general estimation. Then, too, it was pleasant to think that he was to sit down to the same table with Hester, as her father's guest, and to receive a call from her at his own house. Nothing that Mr. Paine could have done would have afforded him an equal amount of gratification,

"There is one other matter I wanted to speak to you about, Mr. Paine," he said. "Will you take care of some money for me until I get a chance to deposit it in the savings bank?"

"Certainly, Robert," was the reply, but the lawyer's manner showed some surprise. He knew the circumstances of the Rushtons, and he had not supposed they had any money on hand. "How much is it?"

"Six hundred and thirty-five dollars," answered Robert, producing it. "Will you count it, and see if it is all right?"

"Is this your money?" asked the lawyer, laying down his pen and gazing at Robert in astonishment.

"Yes, sir," said Robert, enjoying his surprise. "I will tell you how I got it"

So the story was told, with a modest reserve as to his own courage, but still showing, without his intending it, how nobly he had behaved.

"Give me your hand, Robert," said Mr. Paine, cordially. "You have shown yourself a hero. We shall be proud of your company to tea to-morrow evening."

Robert flushed with gratification at the high compliment conveyed in these words.

What did he care then for Halbert Davis and his petty malice! He had the approval of his own conscience, the good opinion of those whom he most respected and a provision against want sufficient to avert all present anxiety.

"There is one thing more, Mr. Paine," he added. "It's about the boat Will was kind enough to lend me."

"Have you seen the carpenter about repairing it?"

"Yes, sir, and he will attend to it as soon as he can spare the time. But that was not what I wanted to say. I think I ought to bear the expense of repairing it. I would have spoken about it at first, but then I had no money, and didn't know when I should have any. Will you be kind enough to take as much of my money as will be needed to pay Mr. Plane's bill when it comes in?"

"Certainly not, Robert. It was not your fault that the boat was injured."

"It wouldn't have happened if I had not borrowed it. It isn't right that the expense should fall on you."

"Don't trouble yourself about that, Robert. I am able and willing to pay it. It is very honorable in you to make the offer, and I like you the better for having made it. Won't you need any of this money for present expenses?"

"Perhaps I had better take the thirty-five dollars. Mother may be in want of something."

Robert received back the sum named, and returned home, much pleased with his interview.

About seven o'clock, sitting at the window of the little cottage, he saw Hester Paine opening the front gate. He sprang to his feet and opened the door.

"Good-evening, Robert," she said. "Is your mother at home?"

"Yes, Hester. Won't you come in?"

"Thank you, Robert. Father has been telling me what a hero you were, and it made me feel proud that you were a friend of mine."

Robert's face lighted with pleasure.

"You compliment me more than I deserve," he answered, modestly; "but it gives me great pleasure to know that you think well of me."

"I am sure that there is no boy in Millville that would have dared to do such a thing. Good-evening, Mrs. Rushton. Are you not proud of your son?"

"He is a good son to me," said Mrs. Rushton, with a glance of affection.

"It is such a splendid thing he did. He will be quite a hero. Indeed, he is one already. I've got a New York paper giving an account of the whole thing. I brought it over, thinking you might like to read it."

She displayed a copy of a great city daily, in which full justice was done to Robert's bravery. Our hero listened with modest pleasure while it was being read.

"I don't deserve all that," he said.

"You must let us judge of that," said Hester. "But I have come this evening, Mrs. Rushton, to ask you to take tea with us to-morrow evening, you and Robert. You will come, won't you?"

Mrs. Rushton was pleased with this mark of attention, and after a slight demur, accepted.

I do not intend to give an account of the next evening, and how Robert, in particular, enjoyed it. That can be imagined, as well as Halbert's chagrin when he heard of the attention his rival was receiving in a quarter where he himself so earnestly desired to stand well. I must pass on to a communication received by Mrs. Rushton, a communication of a very unexpected character, which had an important effect upon the fortunes of our hero.