Chapter XXVI. A Scene in the Stock-Room.
 

But Doc Linyard did not sleep for any great length of time after his good wife began to shake him. A moment later he sprang up, rubbing his eyes.

"Ship ahoy!" he cried heartily. "What's up, what's the trouble?" Then catching sight of Richard and Pep: "Hello, visitors! How are you, Dare?"

"Here's Tom's son," repeated Mrs. Linyard. "Mr. Dare has found Tom."

"What!" The old sailor looked at the street urchin. "Bless my heart if it hain't Tom's son! Well, well, Dare; this is better than getting them letters back." And he took hold of Pep with both hands.

Richard had it on his tongue's end to say that Pep was the one who had taken the letters in the first place, but a second thought made him keep silent. It would do no good to tell, and he would be willing to vouch for the boy's honesty in the future.

Richard's story, as well as Pep's, was soon told, and then Doc Linyard and his wife prepared to accompany the two back to Frying Pan Court.

"I'm glad I've got a little money saved," said the old sailor to Richard, as they hurried across town. "Poor Tom shan't want for anything while there's a shot left in the locker. It's funny he wouldn't let us know his condition."

"He was allers sensitive," put in Mrs. Linyard, "and I suppose coming down made him more so."

It was not long before the little party reached the dingy garret room where the sufferer lay. Frank received them with a warning for silence. He said he had had quite a turn with the sick man, but now Mr. Clover had dropped back exhausted and was dozing.

Mrs. Linyard wept bitterly as she knelt beside the form of her sick brother. Yet she was thankful that he had been found, and her gratitude to Richard was outspoken and genuine.

It was decided that the sick man should be at once removed to one of the private wards of a neighboring hospital, where Mrs. Linyard might see him daily; and then have him taken to her own home as soon as it was deemed safe to do so.

Frank, who was somewhat acquainted with the methods of procedure, accompanied the old sailor to the institution and helped him to make the necessary arrangements.

Half an hour later an ambulance drove into Frying Pan Court. Tom Clover was removed with the greatest of care, the garret room was locked up, and Pep, like one in a dream, went off with his newly-found uncle.

It was nearly sundown when the two boys reached the Massanets' again.

"How long you've been!" exclaimed Mattie, who let them in.

"And we've had quite an adventure," replied her brother.

"Ees zat so?" put in Mrs. Massanet. "You must tell ett, Francois."

"I will, mother," replied Frank. "But Richard will have to help; it's really his story."

"Then both go ahead," cried Mattie. "Only do go ahead. I am dying to hear!"

Of course Mrs. Massanet as well as Mattie was highly interested in the boys' story, and both were deeply touched at the account of Frying Pan Court and the scene in the little garret room.

"I want to know little Pep," said Mattie. "He is too bright a chap to run the streets." "I guess Doc Lanyard won't let him do that any more," returned Richard. "Especially if he gets that money he's expecting from England."

"That sailor didn't lose anything by being kind to you," remarked Frank. "I declare you deserve a reward."

"If only some old soldier would turn up, so that you could get your father's pension," went on Mattie, "that would be better than a reward."

"You're right," replied Richard. "Even if we only got a thousand dollars it would help along wonderfully at home."

Monday morning found the two hard at work in the stock-room. About ten o'clock Mr. Mann came up, and beckoned to Richard to come to one corner.

"I want to find out about an order that was shipped on the tenth to Pittsburgh," he said, when they were alone. "There is something wrong about it. You were here by yourself on that day. Do you remember it?"

"To Pittsburgh?" repeated Richard slowly. "Yes, I do. Mr. Williams filled that order."

"Mr. Williams!" Mr. Mann looked surprised. "I don't understand."

"Mr. Williams came up here while I was alone and offered to help me. I said that the Pittsburgh order I couldn't read very well; so he took it and filled it. He will probably remember it."

"Probably he will," replied Mr. Mann, "and in that case the trouble is certainly all downstairs. You need not mention this occurrence to any one."

Mr. Mann went below; and there were no more interruptions for that day. But trouble was in the air, and on the following day the climax came.

Richard was alone in the stock-room, Frank having just gone below on business. There was a clatter on the stairs, and turning to see what was the matter Richard confronted Earle Norris.

The shipping-clerk was pale, but his manner showed that he was also angry, whether reasonably or not remained to be seen.

"You little greenhorn, you!" he cried. "What do you mean by getting me into trouble?"

"I don't know as I have," replied Richard, as coolly as he could; and, not wishing to engage in a personal encounter, he very wisely placed several cases between himself and his angry accuser.

"Yes, you have!" roared Norris. "You told Mr. Mann that that order from Pittsburgh was sent down all right, and that if any of the goods were changed they were changed downstairs."

"I told no one anything of the kind," replied Richard briefly, though he could readily understand the mistake under which Norris was laboring.

"Yes, you did."

"No, I did not."

"Oh, come, I know better. If you didn't, who did? Massanet wasn't here."

"That's true, too; but, nevertheless, I didn't tell Mr. Mann."

"You're a--" began the shipping-clerk passionately.

"Here! here! Stop that, Norris!" came a voice from the elevator; and the next instant Mr. Williams stepped into the room. "What do you mean by creating such a disturbance?"

"Dare is trying to put up a job on me," began the shipping-clerk. "He told Mr. Mann that that order for Pittsburgh was sent down 0.K. and--"

"And so it was," replied Mr. Williams calmly.

"No, sir; it was--"

"Hold up, Norris; there is no use of further words," said Mr. Williams sharply. "You were discharged half an hour ago, and you had better leave. It was I that told Mr. Mann that the order had gone down all right, because I filled it myself. I suspected you for a long time, and I wanted to find out the truth. Dare and Massanet are entirely innocent in the matter. I have much more information against you--and also a book-dealer who has sold you old books and bought your new ones--but we will let that drop. I have learned that your family is quite a respectable one. For their sake, as well as your own, I advise you to turn over a new leaf. You can go."

For an instant Norris hesitated. Then he turned, and without a word of reply hurried down the stairs.

Richard breathed a sigh of relief when he was gone.

"I am sorry he placed you two up here in such a false position," said Mr. Williams to Richard. "Please tell Massanet of it, too. Neither of you shall lose anything by it."