Chapter XXXII. The Firm of Massanet and Dare.

Tom Clover's unexpected statement was a revelation to Richard, and subsequent questioning convinced the boy that all that Doc Linyard's brother-in-law had said concerning the acquaintance with his father was perfectly true.

It was a fact that Clover had been drafted in Boston, but during the second year of his service his time had expired, and then he had enlisted in a Brooklyn regiment, and become a member of the same company to which Mr. Dare belonged.

"It seems too good to be true," cried Richard finally. "Perhaps Doc has already told you of the pension we are trying to get."

"Yes, and I can witness the papers easily enough, and get several others to, too, if it's necessary. Have you got them here in the city?"

"No; they are home. But I can soon get them, and either bring them or send them on."

This was agreed to, and it was with a much lighter heart that Richard, a quarter of an hour later, bade Frank good-by at the ferry.

"Send the papers to me," said Frank at parting. "I haven't anything to do at present, and will attend to the affair with pleasure."

"Thank you, Frank, I will," was Richard's reply.

The journey to Mossvale was an uneventful one. When Richard reached the Wood cottage all the family ran out to meet him, and in a second his mother's arms were about his neck.

"I'm so glad you have come, Richard!" she cried. "We need you sadly."

Presently he was seated in the doorway, with little Madge on his knee, and the others gathered around, and there he listened to all they had to tell.

The insurance papers had been found, but Mrs. Dare was undecided whether to rebuild or accept the cash.

"We could not get back such a nice home as we had for nine hundred dollars," she said. "And, besides, Sandy Stone has offered me two hundred dollars for the land, and that's a good price, Mr. Wood says."

"Did you save father's pension papers?"

"Yes. But why do you ask?" inquired Mrs. Dare, her curiosity aroused.

For reply Richard told the little party all about his strange meeting with Tom Clover.

"He tells the truth!" cried Mrs. Dare. "I have heard your father mention his name. Thank heaven for having brought you two together!"

And that night, even with all their troubles, the whole Dare family rested without much worry beneath their kind neighbor's roof.

In the morning Richard sent the pension papers to Frank by the first mail. Then he helped get what was left of their furniture into shape, and took a walk over to what had been the old homestead.

Nothing remained but a heap of charred timbers and fallen stones.

"It's the ending of our life here in the country," he whispered to himself. "God grant it may be the beginning of a more prosperous one in the city."

At the close of the week came visitors--Frank, Doc Linyard, and a strange gentleman, who was introduced as Mr. Styles, the old sailor's lawyer friend.

"Mr. Styles says your claim is all right," said Doc Linyard, when introductions all round were over. "He says as how you'll get twenty-five hundred dollars afore three months are up."

It was glorious news.

"Sure?" asked Mrs. Dare, with tears in her eyes.

"Positive, madam," replied Mr. Styles. "I will buy the claim for two thousand dollars if you need the money," he whispered.

"No, thank you; I can wait," she replied. "But I will pay you well for what you have done for us," she added hastily.

"Avast there!" cried the old sailor. "Tom and I are going to settle his claim. We're going to get our money in one month--two thousand dollars each!"

A little while later Frank drew Richard to one side.

"I've heard from Mr. Martin," he said. "Since his son died he has lost all interest in his business, and he wants to sell out and go back to his family in England."

"Sell out?" repeated Richard in surprise. "It would be a good chance for us."

"So I thought; a chance that may not happen again in a lifetime. He has been established twelve years, and has a good run of trade. Last year his sales amounted to twelve thousand dollars. The rent is only seven hundred dollars a year, and he has a three years' lease."

"How much does he ask?"

"If he can sell out before the first he will do so at the cost of the stock--fifteen hundred dollars. Now, by hard scraping I can raise half of that, and if you can raise the other half, and a little extra besides, I believe it will prove a good venture."

Richard thought a moment.

"If my mother will advance the money I'll do it," he replied.

         *       *       *       *       *

Two years have passed.

As Mr. Styles had predicted, at the end of three months Mr. Dare's pension money was in the widow's possession. Long before this, however, Mrs. Dare sold her land in Mossvale, and removed with her family to New York, having apartments adjacent to Mrs. Massanet, with whom she was soon on intimate terms. She advanced the necessary money to Richard, and he and Frank Massanet immediately bought out Mr. Martin's store and set up business on their own account.

Doc Linyard and Tom Clover now run a prosperous hotel and restaurant in the lower part of the city, where their old friends are always welcome. Pep attends school regularly, and thoroughly appreciates his improved condition in life.

Grace Dare has gone back to the country, and in her Charley Wood has found an affectionate wife and a good housekeeper. Next month Nancy is to become Mrs. Massanet. As for Mattie Massanet, she is often seen to blush when Richard's name is mentioned, and rumor has it that she will some day give her heart into the keeping of her brother's partner.

And Mr. Timothy Joyce? Only last week I met him at a Third Avenue Elevated Station, looking as stout and hearty as ever.

"Just come down on the train," he replied, in answer to my question. "Been making a call on Massanet & Dare, the stationers and booksellers. They are young friends of mine, Dare especially, and I take a great interest in them. Since they fixed up this spring they've got a fine store, and I know they're doing first-rate. They deserve it, too--working as hard as they do. They've got my best wishes for success."

And ours, too; eh, reader?