Chapter III. The Curse of Wealth

It is an oft-proved adage that for ten who can stand adversity there is but one who can stand prosperity. Sandy, alas! was no exception to any rule which went to prove the frailty of human nature. The sudden acquisition of ten dollars cast him into a whirlpool of temptation from which he made little effort to escape.

"I ain't goin' on to-day," announced Ricks. "I'm goin' to lay in my goods for peddlin'. I reckon you kin come along of me."

Sandy accepted a long and strong cigar, tilted his hat, and unconsciously caught Ricks's slouching gait as they went down the street. After all, it was rather pleasant to associate with sophistication.

"We'll git on the outside of a little dinner," said Ricks; "and I'll mosey round in the stores awhile, then I'll take you to a show or two. It's a mighty good thing for you that you got me along."

Sandy thought so too. He cheerfully stood treat for the rest of the day, and felt that it was small return for Ricks's condescension.

"How much you got left?" asked Ricks, that night, as they stopped under a street light to take stock.

Sandy held out a couple of dollars and a fifty-cent piece.

"Enough to put on the eyes of two and a half dead men," he said as he curiously eyed the strange money.

"One, two,--two and a half," counted Ricks.

"Shillings?" asked Sandy, amazed.

Ricks nodded.

"And have I blowed all that to-day?"

"What of it?" asked Ricks. "I seen a bloke onct what lit his cigar with a bill like the one you had!"

"But the doctor said it was two pounds," insisted Sandy, incredulously. He did not realize the expense of a personally conducted tour of the Bowery.

"Well, it's went," said Ricks, resignedly. "You can't count on settin' up biz with what's left."

Sandy's brows clouded, and he shifted his position restlessly. "Now I ax yerself, Ricks, what'u'd you do?" he said.

"Me? I don't give advice to nobody. But effen it was me I'd know mighty quick what to do."

"What?" said Sandy, eagerly.

"Buy a dawg."

"A dog? I ain't goin' blind."

"Lor'! but you're a softhorn," said Ricks, contemptuously. "I s'pose you'd count on leadin' him round by a pink ribbon."

"Oh, you mean a fighter?"

"Sure. My last dawg could do ever'thing in sight. She was so game she went after herself in a lookin'-glass and got kilt. Oh, they's money in dawgs, and I knows how to make 'em win ever' time."

Sandy, tired as he was from the day's excitement, insisted upon going in search of one at once. He already had visions of becoming the proud owner of a canine champion that would put him immediately into the position of lighting his cigar with a two-pound note.

The first three weeks of their experience on the road went far to realize their expectations. The bulldog, which had been bought in partnership, proved a conquering hero. Through the long summer days the boys tramped over the country, peddling their wares, and by night they conducted sundry unlawful encounters wherever an opponent could be found.

Sandy enjoyed the peddling. It was astonishing what friendly sociability and confidential intimacy were established by the sale of blue suspenders and pink soap. He left a line of smiling testimonials in his wake.

But if the days were proving satisfactory, so much could not be said of the nights. Even the phenomenal luck that followed his dog failed to keep up his enthusiasm.

"You ain't a nachrul sport," complained Ricks. "That's your trouble. When the last fight was on, you set on the fence and listened at a' ole idiot scrapin' a fiddle down in the valley."

Sandy made a feeble defense, but he knew in his soul it was so.

Affairs reached a climax one night in an old barn on the outskirts of a town. A fight was about to begin when Sandy discovered Ricks judiciously administering a sedative to the enemy's dog.

Then understanding dawned upon him, and his rage was elemental. With a valor that lacked the better part of discretion, he hurled himself through the crowd and fell upon Ricks.

An hour later, bruised, bloody, and vanquished, he stumbled along through the dreary night. Hot with rage and defeat, utterly ignorant of his whereabouts, his one friend turned foe, he was indeed in sorry plight.

He climbed over the fence and lay face downward in the long, cool grass, stretching his bruised and aching body along the ground. A gentle night wind rustled above him, and by and by a star peeped out, then another and another. Before he knew it, he was listening to the frogs and katydids, and wondering what they were talking about. He ceased to think about Ricks and his woes, and gave himself up to the delicious, drowsy peace that was all about him. For, child of nature that he was, he had turned to the only mother he knew.