Chapter V. A Lucky Rescue.
 

The opportune arrival of the child inaugurated a season of comparative prosperity in the home of Timothy Crump. To persons accustomed to live in their frugal way, three hundred dollars seemed a fortune. Nor, as might have happened in some cases, did this unexpected windfall tempt the cooper or his wife to extravagances.

"Let us save something against a rainy day," said Mrs. Crump.

"We can, if I get work soon," answered her husband. "This little one will add but little to our expenses, and there is no reason why we should not save up at least half of it."

"There's no knowing when you will get work, Timothy," said Rachel, in her usual cheerful way; "it isn't well to crow before you're out of the woods."

"Very true, Rachel. It isn't your failing to look too much at the sunny side of the picture."

"I'm ready to look at it when I can see it anywhere," said his sister, in the same enlivening way.

"Don't you see it in the unexpected good fortune which came with this child?" asked Timothy.

"I've no doubt it seems bright enough, now," said Rachel, gloomily, "but a young child's a great deal of trouble."

"Do you speak from experience, Aunt Rachel?" inquired Jack, demurely.

"Yes;" said his aunt, slowly; "if all babies were as cross as you were when you were an infant, three hundred dollars wouldn't begin to pay for the trouble of having one round."

Mr. Crump and his wife laughed at this sally at Jack's expense, but the latter had his wits about him sufficiently to answer, "I've always heard, Aunt Rachel, that the crosser a child is the pleasanter he will grow up. What a very pleasant baby you must have been!"

"Jack!" said his mother, reprovingly; but his father, who looked upon it as a good joke, remarked, good-humoredly, "He's got you there, Rachel."

The latter, however, took it as a serious matter, and observed that, when she was young, children were not allowed to speak so to their elders. "But, I don't know as I can blame 'em much," she continued, wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron, "when their own parents encourage 'em in it."

Timothy was warned, by experience, that silence was his best (sic) defence. Since anything he might say would only be likely to make matters worse.

Aunt Rachel sank into a fit of deep despondency, and did not say another word till dinner time. She sat down to the table with a profound sigh, as if there was little in life worth living for. Notwithstanding this, it was observed that she had a good appetite. Indeed, Rachel seemed to thrive on her gloomy views of life and human nature. She was, it must be acknowledged, perfectly consistent in all her conduct, as far as this peculiarity was concerned. Whenever she took up a newspaper, she always looked first to the space appropriated to deaths, and next in order to the column of accidents, casualties, etc., and her spirits were visibly exhilarated when she encountered a familiar name in either list.

Mr. Crump continued to look out for work, but it was with a more cheerful spirit. He did not now feel as if the comfort of his family depended absolutely upon his immediate success. Used economically, the money he had by him would last nine months, and during that time it was impossible that he should not find something to do. It was this sense of security--of possessing something upon which he could fall back--that enabled him to keep up good heart. It is too generally the case that people are content to live as if they were sure of constantly retaining their health and never losing their employment. When a reverse does come they are at once plunged into discouragement, and feel that something must be done immediately. There is only one way to fend off such an embarrassment, and that is to resolve, whatever may be the amount of the income, to lay aside some part to serve as a reliance in time of trouble. A little economy--though it involves privation--will be well repaid by the feeling of security thus engendered.

Mr. Crump was not compelled to remain inactive as long as he feared. Not that his line of business revived,--that still remained depressed,--but another path was opened to him for a time.

Returning home late one evening, the cooper saw a man steal out from a doorway, and assault a gentleman whose dress and general appearance indicated probable wealth. Seizing him by the throat, the villain effectually prevented him from calling the police, and was engaged in rifling his pockets when the cooper arrived at the scene. A sudden blow on the side of the head admonished the robber that he had more than one to deal with.

"Leave this man instantly," said the cooper, sternly, "or I will deliver you into the hands of the police."

The villain hesitated, but fear prevailed, and springing to his feet, he hastily made off under cover of the darkness.

"I hope you have received no injury," said Timothy, respectfully, turning towards the stranger he had rescued.

"No, my worthy friend, thanks to your timely assistance. The rascal nearly succeeded, however."

"I hope you have lost nothing, sir."

"Nothing, fortunately. You can form an idea of the value of your interference, when I say that I have fifteen hundred dollars with me, all of which I should undoubtedly have lost."

"I am glad," said the cooper, "that I was able to do you such essential service. It was by the merest chance that I came this way."

"Will you add to my indebtedness by accompanying me with that trusty club of yours? I have some little distance yet to go, and the amount of money I have with me makes me feel desirous of taking every possible precaution."

"Willingly," said the cooper.

"But I am forgetting," said the gentleman, "that you yourself will be obliged to return alone."

"I do not carry enough money to make me fear an attack," said Mr. Crump, laughing. "Money brings care I have always heard, and now I realize it."

"Yet most people are willing to take their chance of that," said the merchant.

"You are right, sir, nor can I call myself an exception. Still I should be satisfied with the certainty of constant employment."

"I hope you have that, at least."

"I have had until recently."

"Then, at present, you are unemployed?"

"Yes, sir."

"What is your business?"

"That of a cooper."

"I must see what I can do for you. Can you call at my office to-morrow, say at twelve o'clock?"

"I shall be glad to do so, sir."

"I believe I have a card with me. Yes, here is one. And this is my house. Thank you for your company, my good friend. I shall see you to-morrow."

They stood before a handsome dwelling-house, from whose windows, draped by heavy crimson curtains, a soft light proceeded. The cooper could hear the ringing of childish voices welcoming home their father, whose life, unknown to them, had been in such peril, and he could not but be grateful to Providence that he had been the means of frustrating the designs of the villain who would have robbed him, and perhaps done him farther injury.

He determined to say nothing to his wife of the night's adventure until after his meeting appointed for the next day. Then if any advantage accrued to him from it, he would tell the whole at once.

When he reached home, Mrs. Crump was sewing beside the fire. Aunt Rachel sat with her hands folded in her lap, with an air of martyr-like resignation to the woes of life.

"I've brought you home a paper, Aunt Rachel," said the cooper, cheerfully. "You may find something interesting in it."

"I sha'n't be able to read it this evening," said Rachel, mournfully. "My eyes have troubled me lately. I feel that it is more than probable that I am growing blind. But I trust I shall not live to be a burden to you. Your prospects are dark enough without that."

"Don't trouble yourself with any fears of that sort, Rachel," said the cooper, cheerily. "I think I know what will enable you to use your eyes as well as ever."

"What?" asked Rachel, with melancholy curiosity.

"A pair of spectacles," said her brother, incautiously.

"Spectacles!" retorted Rachel, indignantly. "It will be a good many years before I am old enough to wear spectacles. I didn't expect to be insulted by my own brother. But it's one of my trials."

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Rachel," said the cooper, perplexed.

"Good night," said Rachel, rising and taking a small lamp from the table.

"Come, Rachel, don't go yet. It is early."

"After what you have said to me, Timothy, my self-respect will not permit me to stay."

Rachel swept out of the room with something more than her customary melancholy.

"I wish Rachel war'n't quite so contrary," said the cooper. "She turns upon a body so sudden, it's hard to know how to take her. How's the little girl, Mary?"

"She's been asleep ever since six o'clock."

"I hope you don't find her very much trouble. That all comes upon you, while we have the benefit of the money."

"I don't think of that, Timothy. She is a sweet child, and I love her almost as much as if she were my own. As for Jack, he perfectly idolizes her."

"And how does Aunt Rachel look upon her?"

"I am afraid she will never be a favorite with Rachel."

"Rachel never took to children much. It isn't her way. Now, Mary, while you are sewing, I will read you the news."