Chapter III. The Special Deposit.
 

Stung with mortification and more incensed against Robert than ever, Halbert hastened home. The house in which he lived was the largest and most pretentious in Millville--a large, square house, built in modern style, and with modern improvements, accessible from the street by a semi-circular driveway terminating in two gates, one at each end of the spacious lawn that lay in front. The house had been built only three years, and was the show-place of the village.

Halbert entered the house, and throwing his hat down on a chair in the hall, entered the dining-room, his face still betraying his angry feelings.

"What's the matter, Halbert?" asked his mother, looking up as he entered.

"Do you see this?" said Halbert, displaying the pieces of his cane.

"How did you break it?"

"I didn't break it."

"How came it broken, then?"

"Robert Rushton broke it."

"The widow Rushton's son?"

"Yes; he's a low scoundrel," said Halbert bitterly.

"What made him break it?"

"He struck me with it hard enough to break it, and then threw the pieces on the ground. I wouldn't mind it so much if he were not a low factory boy, unworthy of a gentleman's attention."

"How dared he touch you?" asked Mrs. Davis, angrily.

"Oh, he's impudent enough for anything. He walked home with Hester Paine last evening from the writing school. I suppose she didn't know how to refuse him. I met him just now and told him he ought to know his place better than to offer his escort to a young lady like Hester. He got mad and struck me."

"It was very proper advice," said Mrs. Davis, who resembled her son in character and disposition, and usually sided with him in his quarrels. "I should think Hester would have more sense than to encourage a boy in his position."

"I have no doubt she was bored by his company," said Halbert, who feared on the contrary that Hester was only too well pleased with his rival, and hated him accordingly; "only she was too good-natured to say so."

"The boy must be a young brute to turn upon you so violently."

"That's just what he is."

"He ought to be punished for it."

"I'll tell you how it can be done," said Halbert. "Just you speak to father about it, and get him dismissed from the factory."

"Then he is employed in the factory?"

"Yes. He and his mother are as poor as poverty, and that's about all they have to live upon; yet he goes round with his head up as if he were a prince, and thinks himself good enough to walk home with Hester Paine."

"I never heard of anything so ridiculous."

"Then you'll speak to father about it, won't you?"

"Yes; I'll speak to him to-night. He's gone away for the day."

"That'll pay me for my broken cane," said Halbert, adding, in a tone of satisfaction: "I shall be glad to see him walking round the streets in rags. Perhaps he'll be a little more respectful then."

Meanwhile Robert decided not to mention to his mother his encounter with the young aristocrat. He knew that it would do no good, and would only make her feel troubled. He caught the malignant glance of Halbert on parting, and he knew him well enough to suspect that he would do what he could to have him turned out of the factory. This would certainly be a serious misfortune.

Probably the entire income upon which his mother and himself had to depend did not exceed eight dollars a week, and of this he himself earned six. They had not more than ten dollars laid by for contingencies, and if he were deprived of work, that would soon melt away. The factory furnished about the only avenue of employment open in Millville, and if he were discharged it would be hard to find any other remunerative labor.

At one o'clock Robert went back to the factory rather thoughtful. He thought it possible that he might hear something before evening of the dismission which probably awaited him, but the afternoon passed and he heard nothing.

On leaving the factory, he chanced to see Halbert again on the sidewalk a little distance in front and advancing toward him. This time, however, the young aristocrat did not desire a meeting, for, with a dark scowl, he crossed the street in time to avoid it.

"Is he going to pass it over, I wonder?" thought Robert. "Well, I won't borrow trouble. If I am discharged I think I can manage to pick up a living somehow. I've got two strong arms, and if I don't find something to do, it won't be for the want of trying."

Two years before, Captain Rushton, on the eve of sailing upon what proved to be his last voyage, called in the evening at the house of Mr. Davis, the superintendent of the Millville factory. He found the superintendent alone, his wife and Halbert having gone out for the evening. He was seated at a table with a variety of papers spread out before him. These papers gave him considerable annoyance. He was preparing his semi-annual statement of account, and found himself indebted to the corporation in a sum three thousand dollars in excess of the funds at his command. He had been drawn into the whirlpool of speculation, and, through a New York broker, had invested considerable amounts in stocks, which had depreciated in value. In doing this he had made use, to some extent, of the funds of the corporation, which he was now at a loss how to replace. He was considering where he could apply for a temporary loan of three thousand dollars when the captain entered. Under the circumstances he was sorry for the intrusion.

"Good-evening, Captain Rushton," he said, with a forced smile. "Sit down. I am glad to see you."

"Thank you, Mr. Davis. It will be the last call I shall make upon you for a considerable time."

"Indeed--how is that?"

"I sail to-morrow for Calcutta."

"Indeed--that is a long voyage."

"Yes, it takes considerable time. I don't like to leave my wife and boy for so long, but we sailors have to suffer a good many privations."

"True; I hardly think I should enjoy such a life."

"Still," said the captain, "it has its compensations. I like the free, wild life of the sea. The ocean, even in its stormiest aspects, has a charm for me."

"It hasn't much for me," said the superintendent, shrugging his shoulders. "Seasickness takes away all the romance that poets have invested it with."

Captain Rushton laughed.

"Seasickness!" he repeated. "Yes, that is truly a disagreeable malady. I remember once having a lady of rank as passenger on board my ship--a Lady Alice Graham. She was prostrated by seasickness, which is no respecter of persons, and a more forlorn, unhappy mortal I never expect to see. She would have been glad, I am convinced, to exchange places with her maid, who seemed to thrive upon the sea air."

"I wish you a prosperous voyage, captain."

"Thank you. If things go well, I expect to come home with quite an addition to my little savings. And that brings me to the object of my visit this evening. You must know, Mr. Davis, I have saved up in the last ten years a matter of five thousand dollars."

"Five thousand dollars!" repeated the superintendent, pricking up his ears.

"Yes, it has been saved by economy and self-denial. Wouldn't my wife be surprised if she knew her husband were so rich?"

"Your wife doesn't know of it?" asked the superintendent, surprised.

"Not at all. I have told her I have something, and she may suppose I have a few hundred dollars, but I have never told her how much. I want to surprise her some day."

"Just so."

"Now, Mr. Davis, for the object of my errand. I am no financier, and know nothing of investments. I suppose you do. I want you to take this money, and take care of it, while I am gone on my present voyage. I meant to make inquiries myself for a suitable investment, but I have been summoned by my owners to leave at a day's notice, and have no time for it. Can you oblige me by taking care of the money?"

"Certainly, captain," said the superintendent, briskly. "I shall have great pleasure in obliging an old friend."

"I am much obliged to you."

"Don't mention it. I have large sums of my own to invest, and it is no extra trouble to look after your money. Am I to pay the interest to your wife?"

"No. I have left a separate fund in a savings bank for her to draw upon. As I told you, I want to surprise her by and by. So not a word, if you please, about this deposit."

"Your wishes shall be regarded," said the superintendent. "Have you brought the money with you?"

"Yes," said the captain, drawing from his pocket a large wallet. "I have got the whole amount here in large bills. Count it, if you please, and see that it is all right."

The superintendent took the roll of bills from the hands of his neighbor, and counted them over twice.

"It is quite right," he said. "Here are five thousand dollars. Now let me write you a receipt for them."

He drew before him a sheet of paper, and dipping his pen in the inkstand, wrote a receipt in the usual form, which he handed back to the captain, who received it and put it back in his wallet.

"Now," said the captain, in a tone of satisfaction, "my most important business is transacted. You will keep this money, investing it according to your best judgment. If anything should happen to me," he added, his voice faltering a little, "you will pay it over to my wife and child."

"Assuredly," said the superintendent; "but don't let us think of such a sad contingency. I fully expect to pay it back into your own hands with handsome interest."

"Let us hope so," said the captain, recovering his cheerfulness. "Our destinies are in the hands of a kind Providence. And now good-by! I leave early to-morrow morning, and I must pass the rest of the evening with my own family."

"Good-night, captain," said the superintendent, accompanying him to the door. "I renew my wish that you have a prosperous and profitable voyage, and be restored in good time to your family and friends."

"Amen!" said the captain.

The superintendent went back to his study, his heart lightened of its anxiety.

"Could anything be more fortunate?" he ejaculated, "This help comes to me just when it is most needed. Thanks to my special deposit, I can make my semi-annual settlement, and have two thousand dollars over. It's lucky the captain knows nothing of my Wall Street speculations. He might not have been quite so ready to leave his money in my hands. It's not a bad thing to be a banker," and he rubbed his hands together with hilarity.