Chapter XXXVIII. Conclusion
 

On the evening of the nineteenth of December, Ben stood on the piazza of the village hotel when the stage returned from the depot. He examined anxiously the passengers who got out. His eyes lighted up joyfully as he recognized in one the man he was looking for.

"Mr. Dinsmore," he said, coming forward hastily.

"You see I have kept my word," said Harvey Dinsmore, with a smile.

"I feared you would not come."

"I wished to see the discomfiture of our friend Squire Davenport. So to-morrow is the day?"

"Yes."

"I should like to be on hand when the squire calls."

"That will be at twelve o'clock. My mother has received a note from him fixing that hour."

"Then I will come over at half-past eleven if you will allow me."

"Come; we will expect you."

"And how have you fared since I saw you, my young friend?"

"I have been wonderfully fortunate, but I have kept my good fortune a secret from all, even my mother. It will come out to-morrow."

"Your mother can feel quite at ease about the mortgage."

"Yes, even if you had not come I am able to pay it."

"Whew! then you have indeed been fortunate for a boy. I suppose you borrowed the money?"

"No; I earned it."

"Evidently you were born to succeed. Will you take supper with me?"

"Thank you. Mother will expect me at home."

At half-past eleven the next forenoon the stranger called at door of Mrs. Barclay. He was admitted by Ben.

"Mother," said Ben, "this is Mr. Harvey Dinsmore."

"I believe we have met before," said Dinsmore, smiling. "I fear my first visit was not welcome. To-day I come in more respectable guise and as a friend."

"You are welcome, sir," said the widow courteously. "I am glad to see you. I should hardly have known you."

"I take that as a compliment. I am a tramp no longer, but a respectable and, I may add, well-to-do citizen. Now I have a favor to ask."

"Name it, sir."

"Place me, if convenient, where I can hear the interview between Mr. Davenport and yourself without myself being seen."

Ben conducted Dinsmore into the kitchen opening out of the sitting room, and gave him a chair.

At five minute to twelve there was a knock at the outer door, and Ben admitted Squire Davenport.

"So you are home again, Benjamin," said the squire. "Had enough of the city?"

"I am taking a vacation. I thought mother would need me to-day."

"She will--to help her move."

"Step in, sir."

Squire Davenport, with the air of a master, followed Ben into the sitting room. Mrs. Barclay sat quietly at the table with her sewing in hand.

"Good-day, widow," said the squire patronizingly.

He was rather surprised at her quiet, unruffled, demeanor. He expected to find her tearful and sad.

"Good-day, Squire Davenport," she said quietly. "Is your family well?"

"Zounds! she takes it coolly," thought the squire.

"Very well," he said dryly. "I suppose you know my business?"

"You come about the mortgage?"

"Yes; have you decided where to move?"

"My mother does not propose to move," said Ben calmly.

"Oho! that's your opinion, is it? I apprehend it is not for you to say."

"That's where we differ. We intend to stay."

"Without consulting me, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"You are impudent, boy!" said the squire, waxing wrathful. "I shall give you just three days to find another home, though I could force you to leave at once."

"This house belongs to my mother."

"You are mistaken. It belongs to me."

"When did you buy it?"

"You are talking foolishly. I hold a mortgage for seven hundred dollars on the property, and you can't pay it. I am willing to cancel the mortgage and pay your mother three hundred dollars cash for the place."

"It is worth a good deal more."

"Who will pay more?" demanded the quire, throwing himself back in his chair.

"I will," answered Ben.

"Ho, ho! that's a good joke," said the squire. "Why, you are not worth five dollars in the world."

"It doesn't matter whether I am or not. My mother won't sell."

"Then pay the mortgage," said the squire angrily.

"I am prepared to do so. Have you a release with you?"

Squire Davenport stared at Ben in amazement.

"Enough of this folly!" he said sternly. I am not in the humor for jokes."

"Squire Davenport, I am not joking. I have here money enough to pay the mortgage," and Ben drew from his pocket a thick roll of bills.

"Where did you get that money?" asked Squire Davenport, in evident discomfiture.

"I don't think it necessary to answer that question; but there is another matter I wish to speak to you about. When will you be ready to pay the sum you owe my father's estate?"

Squire Davenport started violently.

"What do you mean?" he demanded hoarsely.

Harvey Dinsmore entered the room from the kitchen at that point.

"I will answer that question," he said. "Ben refers to a note for a thousand dollars signed by you, which was found on his father's person at the time of his death."

"No such note is in existence," said the squire triumphantly. He remembered that he had burned it.

"You are mistaken. That note you burned was only a copy! I have the original with me."

"You treacherous rascal!" exclaimed the squire, in great excitement.

"When I have dealings with a knave I am not very scrupulous," said Dinsmore coolly.

"I won't pay the note you have trumped up. This is a conspiracy."

"Then," said Ben, "the note will be placed in the hands of a lawyer."

"This is a conspiracy to prevent my foreclosing the mortgage. But it won't work," said the squire angrily.

"There you are mistaken. I will pay the mortgage now in the presence of Mr. Dinsmore, and let the other matter be settled hereafter. Please prepare the necessary papers."

Suddenly the squire did as requested. The money was paid over, and Ben, turning to his mother, said:

"Mother, the house is ours once more without incumbrance."

"Thank God!" ejaculated the widow.

"Mr. Dinsmore," said Squire Davenport, when the business was concluded, "may I have a private word with you? Please accompany me to my house."

"As you please, sir."

When they emerged into the street Squire Davenport said:

"Of course this is all a humbug. You can't have the original with you?"

"But I have, sir. You should have looked more closely at the one you burned."

"Can't we compromise this matter?" asked the squire, in an insinuating tone.

"No sir," said Dinsmore with emphasis. "I have got through with rascality. You can't tempt me. If I were as hard up as when I called upon you before, I might not be able to resist you; but I am worth over ten thousand dollars, and--"

"Have you broken into a bank?" asked Squire Davenport, with a sneer.

"I have come into a legacy. To cut matters short, it will be for your interest to pay this claim, and not allow the story to be made known. It would damage your reputation."

In the end this was what the squire was forced very unwillingly to do. The amount he had to pay to the estate of the man whose family he had sought to defraud was nearly fifteen hundred dollars. This, added to Ben's four thousand, made the family very comfortable. Mr. Kirk was compelled to look elsewhere for a house. No one was more chagrined at the unexpected issue of the affair than Tom Davenport, whose mean and jealous disposition made more intense his hatred of Ben.

* * * * * * * * *

Several years have elapsed. Ben is in the office of a real estate lawyer in New York, as junior partner. All Mrs. Hamilton's business is in his hands, and it is generally thought that he will receive a handsome legacy from her eventually. Mrs. Barclay prefers to live in Pentonville, but Ben often visits her. Whenever he goes to Pentonville he never fails to call on Rose Gardiner, now a beautiful young lady of marriageable age. She has lost none of her partiality for Ben, and it is generally understood that they are engaged. I have reason to think that the rumor is correct and that Rose will change her name to Barclay within a year. Nothing could be more agreeable to Mrs. Barclay, who has long looked upon Rose as a daughter.

Tom Davenport is now in the city, but his course is far from creditable. His father has more than once been compelled to pay his debts, and has angrily refused to do so again. In fact, he has lost a large part of his once handsome fortune, and bids fair to close his life in penury. Success has come to Ben because he deserved it, and well-merited retribution to Tom Davenport. Harvey Dinsmore, once given over to evil courses, has redeemed himself, and is a reputable business man in New York. Mrs. Hamilton still lives, happy in the success of her protege. Conrad and his mother have tried more than once to regain their positions in her household, but in vain. None of my young readers will pity them. They are fully rewarded for their treachery.