Chapter XXXV. Conclusion.

The arrival of Captain Rushton, confidently supposed to be dead, produced a great sensation in Millville, and many were the congratulatory visits received at the little cottage. Mrs. Rushton was doubly happy at the unexpected return of her husband and son, and felt for the first time in her life perfectly happy. She cared little for poverty or riches, as long as she had regained her chief treasures.

When Captain Rushton called upon the superintendent, the latter received him with embarrassment, knowing that the captain was aware of his intended dishonesty. He tried to evade immediate payment, but on this point his creditor was peremptory. He had no further confidence in Mr. Davis, and felt that the sooner he got his money back into his hands the better. It was fortunate for him that the superintendent had been at last successful in speculation, or restitution would have been impossible. As is was, he received his money in full, nearly six thousand dollars, which he at once invested in bank stock of reliable city banks, yielding a good annual income. Only the day after the payment of this sum, a committee of investigation appointed by the directors, whose suspicions had been excited, visited the factory, and subjected the superintendent's books to a thorough scrutiny. The result showed that Mr. Davis, in whom hitherto perfect confidence had been felt, had for years pursued a system of embezzlement, which he had covered up by false entries in his books, and had appropriated to his own use from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars belonging to the corporation. While this investigation was pending, the superintendent disappeared, leaving his wife and son unprovided for. His estate was seized in part satisfaction of the amounts he had appropriated, and Halbert's pride was brought low. The wealth and position upon which he had based his aristocratic pretensions vanished, and in bitter mortification he found himself reduced to poverty. He could no longer flaunt his cane and promenade the streets in kid gloves, but was glad to accept a position in the factory store, where he was compelled to dress according to his work. In fact, he had exchanged positions with Robert, who was now, owing to a circumstance which will at once be mentioned, possessed of a considerable inheritance.

The old farmer, Paul Nichols, whom Robert tried to defend from his unprincipled nephew, Ben Haley, died suddenly of heart disease. Speculation was rife as to who would inherit the estate which he left behind him. He had no near relation except Ben Haley, and so great was the dislike he entertained toward him that no one anticipated that the estate would go to him, unless through Paul's dying intestate. But shortly after Haley's visit, his uncle made a will, which he deposited in the hands of Lawyer Paine. On the day after the funeral, the latter met Captain Rushton and Robert, and said:

"Will you come to my office this afternoon at three o'clock?"

"Certainly," said the captain.

"I suppose you don't want me, Mr. Paine?" said Robert.

"I do want you, particularly," said the lawyer.

Our hero wondered a little why his presence was required, but dismissed the matter from his mind, until three o'clock found him in the lawyer's office.

"Gentlemen," said the lawyer, "I am about to read the last will and testament of our neighbor, Paul Nichols, recently deceased."

This preamble created surprise, for this was the first intimation that such a will was in existence.

The document was brief, and the substance of it was contained in the following paragraph:

"Having no near relatives, except Benjamin Haley, for whom I have neither regard nor affection, and who, moreover, has recently stolen a considerable sum of money from me, I leave all of which I may die possessed, whether in land or money, to my brave young friend, Robert Rushton, who courageously defended me from my said nephew, at his own bodily risk, and I hope he may live long to enjoy the property I bequeath him."

No one was more surprised than Robert at the unexpected inheritance. He could hardly realize that he was now possessed of a considerable property in his own right. It may be said here that, including the value of the farm, and the gold concealed, his inheritance amounted to quite ten thousand dollars. Paul had considerately supplied the lawyer with a list of the hiding places where he had secreted his money on the strictest injunctions of secrecy, and this made the task of finding it quite easy.

Congratulations poured in upon our hero, who received them with modest satisfaction.

"It is a good thing to have a rich son," said Captain Rushton, humorously. "Robert, I hope you won't look down upon me on account of my comparative poverty."

"Father," said Robert, "I wish you would take this money--I don't want it."

"I shall do nothing of the kind, Robert. It is fairly and deservedly yours, though I confess you may attribute it partly to good luck, for virtue is not always so well rewarded in this world. I will take care of it for you, and if you choose to pay your own expenses out of your income, I shall allow you to do so, since you are now rich and prosperous."

"You must take all the income, father. Then it will not be necessary for you to go to sea again."

"I have already made up my mind to stay on land hereafter," said Captain Rushton. "My cruise in an open boat without provisions has cured me of my love for the sea. With the little money I have saved, and the help of a rich son, I think I can afford to stay on shore."

The cottage was enlarged by the erection of another story, as well as by the addition of a wing and the throwing out of two bay windows, and was otherwise refitted and so metamorphosed by fresh paint and new furniture, that it became one of the most attractive houses in Millville. Captain Rushton, who knew something of agriculture, decided to carry on Robert's farm himself, and found the employment both pleasant and profitable.

"My only trouble," he used to say, jocosely, "is that I have a very exacting landlord. Unless the rent were punctually paid, he would be sure to resort to legal means to recover it."

When Ben Haley heard that his uncle's estate had been bequeathed to the boy whom he had persecuted, and whom for that reason he hated, his rage and disappointment were unbounded. If he had not been within two hours of sailing in command of a ship bound to South America, he would at once have gone down to Millville, and in his fury he might have done serious injury to the boy who had superseded him. But he could not delay the day of sailing, and so, much against his will, he was forced to forego his vengeance until his return. But this was destined to be his last voyage. While at Rio Janeiro he became engaged in a fracas with the keeper of a low grogshop, when the latter, who was a desperate ruffian, snatched a knife from his girdle, and drove it into the heart of the unhappy captain, who fell back on the floor and expired without a groan. Thus terminated a misguided and ill-spent life. I should have been glad to report Ben Haley's reformation instead of his death, but for the sake of Robert, whom he hated so intensely, I am relieved that thin source of peril is closed.

Robert, being now in easy circumstances, decided to pursue his studies for two years longer, and accordingly placed himself in a school of high reputation, where he made rapid improvement. He then entered upon a business life under the auspices of his friend, Mr. Morgan, and promises in time to become a prominent and wealthy merchant. He passes every Sunday at home in the little cottage occupied by his father, who, however, has ceased to be a farmer, having been promoted to the post of superintendent of the factory, formerly occupied by Mr. Davis. For the first twelve months the post was filled by a new man, who proved to be incompetent, and then was offered to Captain Rushton, whose excellent executive talents were well known. He soon made himself familiar with his duties, and the post is likely to be his as long as he cares to hold it.

Hester Paine, as a young lady, fulfills the promise of her girlhood. The mutual attachment which existed between her and Robert, when boy and girl, still continues, and there is some ground for the report which comes from Millville--that they are engaged. The alliance will be in the highest degree pleasing to both families, for if Hester is fair and attractive, Robert is energetic and of excellent principles, and possessed of precisely those qualities which, with fair good fortune will, under the favor of Providence, insure his success in life.