Chapter XXXIV. Conclusion
 

"Where are you boarding, Herbert?" asked Ralph.

"In Stanton Street."

"I shall wish you at once to remove to the Astor House, in order that we may be together until we sail for Europe."

To this pleasant arrangement Herbert made no opposition. He found it a great change from the dirty and slipshod boarding-house to the elegant arrangements of a first-class hotel. It is needless to say that he enjoyed that change not a little. He often had the feeling, of which he had spoken to Ralph, that it was a dream from which he would some time awake. But the dream was destined to be a pretty long one.

Within a week, much against his will, Mr. Stanton paid over to Ralph Pendleton the fifty thousand dollars of which he had years ago defrauded him, and thus the Ranger found himself master of a fortune of nearly one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. He settled without delay a comfortable annuity on David Marston, the old clerk, through whose evidence he had been able to ferret out the treachery of Mr. Stanton. Marston needed it, for his health was broken down and he was an invalid, prematurely old. He is now settled in a comfortable boarding-house in Clinton Street, and usually spends his mornings at the Mercantile Library Reading-Room, in Astor Place, reading the morning papers. Sometimes he ventures downtown, and takes a slow walk through the streets, crowded with busy, bustling men, and recalls the years when he, too, was one of them.

Before sailing for Europe, Herbert expressed a desire to repay his uncle the sum of ten dollars, which the latter had sent to him. Ralph was surprised when he learned that this uncle, of whom Herbert spoke, was the same man who had been his former guardian. He approved our hero's determination, and one morning Herbert entered for the first time his uncle's place of business.

"Is Mr. Stanton in?" he asked of a clerk.

The clerk, in reply, pointed to the office.

Herbert entered.

His uncle looked up, but although he had seen our hero at a concert at the Academy of Music, he did not recognize him in the new and fashionable suit which Ralph had purchased for him.

"Mr. Stanton, I suppose?" said Herbert, with quiet self-possession.

"Yes. Do you wish to speak with me?"

"I must introduce myself," said Herbert. "I am Herbert Mason, your nephew."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Stanton, surprised. "When did you come to the city?"

"Some weeks since."

"What brought you here?"

"I had my living to make. I preferred to make it in the city."

"The city is crowded. You had better have remained in the country."

"I do not think so," said Herbert.

"You could have got a place on a farm, and in time perhaps might have bought a little land for yourself."

Herbert smiled.

"I did get a place on a farm," he said; "but I did not like it."

"What are you doing in the city? Have you got a place?"

"Not at present."

"So I supposed," said his uncle, frowning. "I told you the city was overcrowded. You should not have come here. I suppose you relied on me to help you to something. But I have my own family to take care of, and my first duty is to them, as you must be aware."

"I don't think you quite understand my object in calling," said Herbert, quietly. "I have not come for assistance of any kind."

"Indeed!" returned Mr. Stanton, appearing to be puzzled.

"You sent me ten dollars in a letter to Dr. Kent some months since?"

"Yes. I felt that it was best for you to depend on yourself, and that more would only encourage you to idleness."

"I have come to thank you for the LOAN," said Herbert, emphasizing the last word, "and to return the money."

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Stanton, now thoroughly amazed.

Herbert repeated his former words.

"But I don't understand this. You are out of a place; yet you do not need this money."

"No, I do not need it."

This was certainly astonishing, and Mr. Stanton gazed at his nephew as if he did not know what to make of it.

"What are your plans?" he asked. "What are you going to do?"

"I sail for Europe next week," said Herbert, enjoying his uncle's surprise.

"Sail for Europe!" ejaculated Mr. Stanton, scarcely believing his ears.

"Yes, I am to go to school there, and shall probably remain three or four years."

"You are trifling with me," said his uncle, irritably. "How can you go to Europe without money?"

Herbert felt that the time had come for an explanation.

"A friend," he said, "kindly undertakes to pay all my expenses. I go with him."

"Who is your friend?"

"Mr. Ralph Pendleton. I believe you know him."

"Ralph Pendleton!" repeated Mr. Stanton, in renewed surprise. "How did you become acquainted with him?"

"The farmer with whom I was placed in Ohio ill-treated me. Ralph lived near by, and helped me to run away."

Mr. Stanton made no comment. Indeed, his surprise was such that he knew not what to say. His friendless and penniless nephew, as he had regarded him, was about to share advantages which he would gladly have obtained for his own son. When, that evening, at home, he told his family of Herbert's good fortune, Tom was filled with bitter envy. If it had been any other boy he would have cared less, but for "that begger Herbert" to go to Europe in charge of a man of wealth was very mortifying to his pride.

Mr. Stanton made a faint protest against receiving the ten dollars tendered by his nephew, but Herbert was determined to repay it. He placed it on the desk and eventually Mr. Stanton placed it in his pocketbook.

After some reflection, finding his nephew very differently situated from what he had supposed, Mr. Stanton, with the concurrence of his wife, whose opinion also had been changed, sent an invitation to Ralph and Herbert to dine with them previous to their sailing for Europe. Herbert, by his new guardian's direction, returned a polite reply, to the effect that they were too busy in making preparations for their departure to accept the invitation. Ralph did not feel like sitting as the guest of a man who had cruelly defrauded him, and had only done him justice when he was actually compelled to do so.

In due time our hero sailed for Europe with Mr. Ralph Pendleton. They divided their time between Paris and Berlin, Herbert studying at both places. With his natural good abilities, he made rapid progress, and at the end of four years was an accomplished scholar, able to speak both French and German with facility. In watching his progress, Ralph Pendleton found a new and fresh interest in life. He recovered from his old, morbid feeling, and became cheerful and happy. On returning to New York, Herbert, who felt that he should enjoy a life of business better than a professional career, entered the counting-room of Mr. Godfrey. At twenty-one, the junior partner retiring, he was received as partner in his place, his guardian, Ralph Pendleton, purchasing an interest for him at a cost of fifty thousand dollars. He developed good business abilities, and bid fair to swell this sum, in time, to a large fortune. There is a prospect that he will, in time, sustain a closer relation to his senior partner, as it is rumored that Julia Godfrey, now a brilliant young belle, prefers her father's young partner to any of the crowd of young men who pay her court.

The other characters in our story demand a few closing words. First, for Mr. Stanton. It might have been the sudden withdrawal of the fifty thousand dollars from his business that embarrassed him. At any rate, from that time nothing prospered with him. He met with loss after loss, until, in a time of financial panic he failed. He saved but a little from the wreck of his fortune, That little started him in a modest business, yielding him, perhaps, one-tenth his former income. The brownstone house was sold. He moved into a shabby house in an obscure street, where Mrs. Stanton spends her time mostly in bewailing the loss of her former splendor.

Tom developed habits of extravagance, and seemed indisposed to work steadily. Finally, when his reverses came, his father was compelled to refuse further assistance, and now Tom, in an inferior clerkship, on a small salary, gazes with envy at his once-despised cousin, with whom he has completely changed places. How he will come out eventually is doubtful. Unless he changes considerably, it is not likely that his circumstances will ever be much better than at present.

Abner Holden died suddenly last year in a fit of delirium tremens. His habits of intemperance grew upon him until they led to this sad result. His death did not excite any very prolonged grief in the community, as his temper and uncertain honesty had made him very far from popular. To the housekeeper who had been kind to him, Herbert sent a valuable silk dress, of the richest fabric, of which Mrs. Bickford is very proud. She only wears it on great occasions, and then is particular to mention that it was presented to her by Herbert Mason, of the great New York firm of Godfrey & Mason, who was once Abner Holden's bound boy.

Nor was Herbert forgetful of his good friends, the Kents. He paid off the mortgage on the doctor's place, and insisted on putting the house in thorough repair, and newly furnishing it, so that now the town of Waverley does not contain a handsomer house, inside and out, than that of Dr. Kent.

So we bid farewell to our young hero, fairly launched on a prosperous career, trusting that his life-path may be bright to the end, and that he may leave behind him, at the end of his career, the reputation of a noble and honorable merchant, and a life filled with good deeds.

THE END