The Store Boy by Horatio Alger
Chapter VII. The Tramp Makes Another Call
My readers will naturally be surprised at the tramp's restitution of a coin, which, though counterfeit, he would probably have managed to pass, but this chapter will throw some light on his mysterious conduct.
When he made a sudden exit from Mrs. Barclay's house, upon the appearance of the squire and his friend, he did not leave the premises, but posted himself at a window, slightly open, of the room in which the widow received her new visitors. He listened with a smile to the squire's attempt to force Mrs. Barclay to sell her house.
"He's a sly old rascal!" thought the tramp. "I'll put a spoke in his wheel."
When the squire and his wife's cousin left the house, the tramp followed at a little distance. Not far from the squire's handsome residence Kirk left him, and the tramp then came boldly forward.
"Good-evenin'," he said familiarly.
Squire Davenport turned sharply, and as his eye fell on the unprepossessing figure, he instinctively put his hand in the pocket in which he kept his wallet.
"Who are you?" he demanded apprehensively.
"I ain't a thief, and you needn't fear for your wallet," was the reply.
"Let me pass, fellow! I can do nothing for you."
"We'll see about that!"
"Do you threaten me?" asked Squire Davenport, in alarm.
"Not at all; but I've got some business with you--some important business."
"Then call to-morrow forenoon," said Davenport, anxious to get rid of his ill-looking acquaintance.
"That won't do; I want to leave town tonight."
"That's nothing to me."
"It may be," said the tramp significantly. "I want to speak to you about the husband of the woman you called on to-night."
"The husband of Mrs. Barclay! Why, he is dead!" ejaculated the squire, in surprise.
"That is true. Do you know whether he left any property?"
"No, I believe not."
"That's what I want to talk about. You'd better see me to-night."
There was significance in the tone of the tramp, and Squire Davenport looked at him searchingly.
"Why don't you go and see Mrs. Barclay about this matter?" he asked.
"I may, but I think you'd better see me first."
By this time they had reached the Squire's gate.
"Come in," he said briefly.
The squire led the way into a comfortable sitting room, and his rough visitor followed him. By the light of an astral lamp Squire Davenport looked at him.
"Did I ever see you before?" he asked.
"Then I don't see what business we can have together. I am tired, and wish to go to bed."
"I'll come to business at once, then. When John Barclay died in Chicago, a wallet was found in his pocket, and in that wallet was a promissory note for a thousand dollars, signed by you. I suppose you have paid that sum to the widow?"
Squire Davenport was the picture of dismay. He had meanly ignored the note, with the intention of cheating Mrs. Barclay. He had supposed it was lost, yet here, after some years, appeared a man who knew of it. As Mr. Barclay had been reticent about his business affairs, he had never told his wife about having deposited this sum with Squire Davenport, and of this fact the squire had meanly taken advantage.
"What proof have you of this strange and improbable story?" asked the squire, after a nervous pause.
"The best of proof," answered the tramp promptly. "The note was found and is now in existence."
"Who holds it--that is, admitting for a moment the truth of your story?"
"I do; it is in my pocket at this moment."
At this moment Tom Davenport opened the door of the apartment, and stared in open-eyed amazement at his father's singular visitor.
"Leave the room, Tom," said his father hastily. "This man is consulting me on business."
"Is that your son, squire?" asked the tramp, with a familiar nod. "He's quite a young swell."
"What business can my father have with such a cad?" thought Tom, disgusted.
Tom was pleased, nevertheless, at being taken for "a young swell."